Congress must hold special session, if necessary, to tackle COVID-19 budget – Bong Go
MANILA, Philippines — If deemed necessary, Senator Bong Go on Monday said he will push for the holding of a special session to approve the supplemental budget for the government’s response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Congress is on recess since March 12 and is scheduled to resume session on May 4.
Go said that he would make the recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte if current available funds would not suffice.
The House Committee on Appropriations earlier approved a P1.6-billion supplemental budget for the country’s response against COVID-19.
Congress, however, was not able to pass the budget before its Lenten break began last week.
“Congress is currently on Session Break and some of our colleagues are also on self-quarantine. Given the situation now, we should find ways to respond to the needs of our people, especially at this time when decisive government action is needed the most,” Go said in a statement.
“Hindi pwedeng ipagpaliban ang pagtulong natin sa mga nangangailangan (We cannot delay our help to those in need). Now, more than ever, we, as elected officials, must do everything we can to be of service to the Filipino people,” the senator added.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano earlier said that the lower chamber is willing to hold special sessions during the break to discuss urgent matters such as the coronavirus pandemic.
Minority senators—Leila De Lima, Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Francis Pangilinan—on Sunday also called on the Senate to hold a special session for the approval of the supplemental budget.
“The supplemental budget should cover the test kits for massive testing; relief goods for the most vulnerable; additional health personnel, equipment (protective gear and hospital beds), and vitamins and medicine; cash support or basic income grant for the daily wage earners and the unemployed who don’t have sick and vacation leaves; and subsidy or easy loans to help businesses, especially the micro and small ones, keep afloat during this period,” the minority senators said.
Meanwhile, Go assured the public that government funds are sufficient to help the Department of Health (DOH) as well as other government agencies in its efforts to combat COVID-19.
Among the funds Go listed were the P2 billion from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), P420 million from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), P539 million from DOH’s savings and P81 million from the DOH Quick Response Fund.
Go said that the government also has contingency funds and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management funds in the national budget on standby.
“If the above-mentioned sources prove insufficient, I will recommend to the President that he may call for a Special Session so that Congress can deliberate on the need to approve a supplemental budget,” Go said.
As of Sunday evening, DOH has reported 140 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country and 22 deaths.
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