Palace congratulates new House Speaker Velasco, thanks former Speaker Cayetano

The Palace congratulated newly-elected Speaker of the House of Representatives Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco after the Lower House ratified the election of Velasco as its new speaker on Tuesday.

“Consistent naman po ang ating Presidente, ang paghalal po ng mga liderato sa Mababang Kapulungan ay desisyon ng mga indibidwal na mga representante natin. So we respect the wish of the members of the House of Representatives on who will be their Speaker,” said Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Jr. during a press briefing in Malacañang on October 13.

The President’s spokesman underscored the Palace stand on the matter, “Our consistent position has been, it is the House of the Representatives that will choose their leaders, and if it has been ratified, then it is Speaker Lord Allan Velasco,” said Secretary Roque.

Secretary Roque said that the Executive is looking forward to working closely with the new House Speaker, who is also a close ally of the Duterte Administration.

“Tingin ko naman po magpapatuloy ang buong kooperasyon ng Ehekutibo at ng Kongreso under the leadership of Congressman Speaker Lord Allan Velasco,” Roque said.

“Maraming, maraming salamat din po kay dating Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and congratulations and salamat din po kay Speaker Lord Allan Velasco,” Sec. Roque added.

In the same press briefing, Roque presented details of the 48th Cabinet meeting that transpired on October 12 where members of the Cabinet approved the recommendations of the economic cluster with regard to the further opening up of the economy.

Secretary Roque reported that one of the recommendations approved by the Cabinet is the establishment of priority areas to manage COVID-19 cases.

This can be done by pursuing the prevent-detect-isolate-treat-recover strategy through technology and discipline, improving hospital care capacity to keep critical care below 70 percent, and opening sufficient number of public transport.

On improving public transportation, the recommendations approved were: gradually increasing seating capacity in public transportation beginning with one-seat apart to gradually allowing seating together with plastic barrier; expanding rail capacity to 30 to 50 percent, expanding the operation of provincial buses, motorcycle taxis, shuttles, and TNVS; and accelerating service contracting to expand operation of buses and jeepneys.

Roque said that the strict implementation of the Seven Commandments for public transportation were also approved.

These are: proper wearing of face masks, use of face shields, no talking and eating, adequate ventilation, frequent and proper disinfection, no symptomatic passengers, and appropriate physical distancing.

“Kasama rin po sa priority areas para ma-manage ang COVID-19 cases ay pagkonsidera sa mga incremental opening ng mga negosyo,” said Sec Roque.

This can be done through shorter curfew hours and multiple work shifts, further gradual expansion of business capacity to 75 to 100 percent, and gradual expansion of age group that will be allowed to go out.

On the part of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF), it was approved that considering the escalation of quarantine levels will be the last resort.

To ensure that all of these guidelines and recommendations are properly communicated to the public, the IATF, the Department of Health, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, and the Presidential Communications Operations Office are directed to intensify communication campaign to empower the people on how they can protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially at home.

Roque added that the issue on beep cards was also tackled in the Cabinet meeting, where it was recommended that bus operators should choose their own contactless payment provider that can give free cards and interoperability requirement.

Also in the same press briefing, Budget and Management Secretary Wendel Avisado said that instead of risk avoidance, risk management will be used in the opening up of the economy, giving priority to the needs of the people while at the same time ensuring that the economy is up and rolling.

Meanwhile, Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that they will be holding a meeting later in the day with union groups and management associations to discuss the matter of the exemption in the payment of 13th month pay by distressed companies. (OPS-PCOO)