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Sponsorship Speech of Deputy Speaker Loren Legarda On the Better Normal Bill (House Bill No. House Bill No. 6864)

May 28, 2020

Mr. Speaker,

The raging COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the sobering reality that the world is not as advanced, prosperous and as resilient as we thought it to be. We have realized that our societies and economic systems are fragile, and that we are only as strong as our most vulnerable.

The only way forward is to heed science and make decisive actions toward staging a recovery that will pave the way for a better normal for the Filipino people.

The choices we will make today will shape our future. If we are not careful, pandemics could happen more frequently, spread more quickly, and could have greater social and economic impacts than what Covid-19 has brought about.

This is why we must ensure that our actions from now on do not restore the vulnerabilities we had before the pandemic, more so spawn new risks of future outbreaks and crises.

It is imperative that resources mobilized by governments to recover from COVID-19 also support the transition toward a sustainable, climate-resilient future.

We need to ensure that our policies and interventions are green and blue, if we are going to come out of the pandemic stronger.

We relied so much on nature to the extent that the pain it had endured from our exploitation and from our abuse reverberated to every corner of our planet. It is high time that we reflect on our actions, prevent the habits we had been accustomed to, and transform toward a better normal to keep our people safe, healthy and secure.

Sustainability is the key aspect of these interventions for a better normal. We should act, not only based on band-aid solutions, but we should also foresee and prepare policies for the long-term and more efficient governance.

In this regard, this Committee Report before us today essentially gives us a silver lining on how to improve our laws, regulations, policies and actions, ranging from health, environment, education, agriculture, labor and industrial sector, tourism, arts and culture and how we can all adapt, adjust toward a better normal.

As we ensure that we are protected and we have the discipline to abide by stringent health and safety measures, we also take advantage of digital infrastructure and platforms, in our ways of living. Through this bill, we are able to bridge sectors, digitally linking trade and commerce, education, labor, health and governance.

Primarily guided by Constitutional provisions that seek to protect our fundamental rights to health, and balanced and healthful ecology as well as indicators of Gross National Happiness (GNH), House Bill No. 6864, under Committee Report No. 332seeks to achieve an equitable and liveable future in this better normal.

This proposed measure consolidates the submissions of our esteemed colleagues as well as the different government agencies represented during our public hearings and technical working group meeting. Allow me to highlight some of its key provisions:

1) The bill defines “Better Normal” in the context of pandemic recovery and it refers to transformative behaviors and interventions informed by science, that address the underlying vulnerabilities of people and communities that the pandemic has highlighted and fosters a just and equitable transition to a climate-resilient, inclusive and sustainable future.

2) This bill enumerates universal mandatory health and safety measures and protocols to ensure that we are shielded and protected from viruses of such grand scale.

3) The bill further details the policies imposed on the management of spaces and public transportation so as to stem the spread of viruses.

4) It strengthens the synergy between and among national government agencies, local government units and the private sector by defining their roles and responsibilities in the better normal.

5) The bill seeks to develop our digital infrastructure through the National Broadband Plan of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. The effectivity of a better normal for governance, for the education system, and even our micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) as we shift most of our work, transactions and businesses online will depend heavily on the DICT’s achievement of its goals for wider connectivity, and stronger and more reliable internet services for the public.

6) Similarly, the bill highlights the need to address issues on water supply, sanitation and waste management which are key in containing the spread of viruses.

7) The bill also seeks to protect the vulnerable sectors of our society not only from the affliction of COVID-19, but also by helping them cope with the changes brought about by the pandemic.

8) It encourages adaptation behaviors that would protect our surroundings and nature that has always been the source of food, water, and our very source of existence. It adopts relevant adaptation measures, such as multi-hazard early warning systems, construction of rainwater harvesters, seedbanks and vegetable gardens.

9) The bill provides for a Sunset Clause, such that after its enactment, the law will be effective for three (3) years, or sooner upon official declaration that the pandemic caused by COVID-19 has already been eradicated. However, a proviso has been included to indicate that standards, protocols and other measures which are not rendered useless or impractical by the eradication of COVID-19 shall continue to be implemented.

Our actions perpetuate habits. Our habits perpetuate behaviors. COVID19 has jolted us awake from what we may have been doing wrong. But let us see this as an opportunity now to rise and do better — to act with discipline, with compassion and with consideration. With such virtues as our driving forces, this representation thus hopes with fervor, that we can pass this measure as soon as possible, as we all seek to prepare and live in a better normal.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.