Monday, May 11, 2020

Pres. Duterte given authority over budget to curb COVID-19

The Philippine Congress has passed legislation that would give President Rodrigo Duterte the authority to realign the national budget and control over medical facilities as the country continues efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The legislators approved the bill called, “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act”, early Tuesday morning.

Only several members of the House of Representatives showed up, while 12 senators were present as the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine is in place, GMA News reported.

The provision on emergency powers was scrapped.

The bill gives the President the power to temporarily direct the operations of “privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities including passenger vessels and other establishments,” and converts these as temporary housing for health workers, as quarantine areas, or aid distribution locations.

In the provision for public transportation facilities, these may be used to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel.

The President may take over these facilities, subject to the provisions of the Constitution, if the said establishments “unjustifiably refuse or signify that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises” for COVID-19 response.

Under the same measure, the President may “allocate cash, funds, investments, including underutilized or unreleased subsidies and transfers, held by any government-owned and controlled corporation or any national government agency… necessary in order to address the COVID-19 emergency.”

Emergency subsidies may also be released for the 18 million low-income Filipino families in the country who may starve while the enhanced community quarantine is being implemented.

Senator Pia Cayetano, the author of the bill, said each low-income household is projected to receive around P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months from various national government and local government programs, “whether in cash or kind, but mostly food.”

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