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Goal for 18th Congress: lower power rates, improve education

SAGÑAY, CAMARINES SUR, Philippines – School children disembark from a banca after having their lunch outside their school in this coastal village of Nato, 25 June 2019. Staunch education advocate and reformist Senator Win Gatchalian recently filed three bills that seek to uplift the lives of both teachers and students. Photo by Mark Cayabyab/OS WIN GATCHALIAN

The priority bills filed by Senator Win Gatchalian during opening of the 18th Congress reflect his legislative agenda: to lower the cost of electricity in the country and improve the quality of education.

“We wanted to have a well-rounded legislative agenda this Congress that focuses on our advocacies: increase the spending power of our consumers by lowering electricity rates and further improve the quality of education in the country,” he said.

Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, said he has filed four energy-related bills aiming to lower power rates, including the Microgrid Systems Act, which seeks to promote the use of microgrid systems for the total electrification of unserved and underserved areas; and the Energy Advocate Act, which creates the Office of the Energy Advocate (OEA) and provides a national policy and framework for energy advocacy.

Gatchalian’s Electric Vehicles and Charging Stations Act meanwhile creates a national policy and framework to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles in the public and private sectors, while the Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute Act seeks to bridge the research and policy gap in the energy sector by institutionalizing an independent and public sector funded Philippine Energy Research and Policy Institute.

On the other hand, continuing his advocacy of improving the quality of education in the country, the lawmaker filed three education-related bills seeking to uplift the lives of both teachers and students, including a proposed measure increasing the salaries of public school teachers in elementary and secondary schools with the rank of Teacher I, Teacher II, and Teacher III from Salary Grade (SG) 11, 12, and 13, respectively, to SG 13, 14, and 15.

He also gave priority to the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs (CYSN) Act, which establishes Inclusive Education Learning Resource Centers (IELRC) in all public schools divisions nationwide and institutionalizes an adequate and relevant educational program for every CYSN.

Moreover, Gatchalian has refiled the bill seeking to establish a mandatory two-year Basic Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) program for students enrolled in Grades 11 and 12 in all senior high schools in public and private educational institutions. President Rodrigo Duterte previously certified as urgent the 17th Congress version of the bill.

Rounding off Gatchalian’s top 10 bills are Unlock My Mobile Act, which mandates the unlocking of mobile wireless devices within definitive six- and nine-month periods from the date of purchase of the device; and the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) Card Registration Act, which seeks to regulate the sale and distribution of SIM cards by establishing a registry or database of validated information of its authorized owner.

Finally, the senator, the current chair of the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs, said he has refiled The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Act of 2019 institutionalizes NEDA as a lead integrator of economic development programs and policies in the country.