Senate bill extending validity of extra powers to Duterte endorsed to plenary
MANILA, Philippines — A measure seeking to extend for another three months the validity of the additional powers granted to President Rodrigo Duterte to respond to the coronavirus pandemic has reached the Senate floor.
Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, endorsed for plenary approval Senate Bill No. 1564, authorizing the President to “exercise necessary powers” to respond to the health crisis and to provide a “mechanism” to “accelerate the recovery and bolster the resiliency of the Philippine economy.”
The measure was contained under Committee Report No. 98, which was signed by at least 20 senators.
Senate Bill No. 1564, which would also provide additional assistance to those affected by the pandemic, will be dubbed as the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” once enacted into law.
According to Angara, the bill would also grant the President “necessary flexibility” to realign budgets from agencies towards the government’s COVID-19 response.
The measure would likewise extend the provision of the emergency subsidy given to low-income households as well as the wage subsidy programs for displaced workers.
Assistance for those in creative industries will also be covered under the bill, Angara added.
The bill, the senator said, directs the government financial institutions such as the Landbank of the Philippines (LBP), the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to provide loan subsidies or grants for purchasing of “necessary gadgets” for the blended learning scheme as students and teachers adjust to the restrictions triggered by the pandemic.
The measure would also establish a standby fund of approximately P236 billion which provides a wider coverage of assistance for affected sectors, as well as for the conduct of mass testing, among others.
Of the amount, Angara said that P25 billion would be allocated for cash-for-work programs; P50 billion for the capital inclusion of the LBP, DBP and the Philippine Guarantee Corporation; P30 billion for the Department of Health (DOH) on programs to prevent and control the spread of the virus, including mass testing; and P50 billion in support of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), health workers, and affected employees in tourism and “other critically-impacted” industries in both the formal and informal sectors.
The standby fund would also be used to assist the agricultural and fisheries sector (P46 billion); and to enable the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Tourism (DOT) to assist “ailing” enterprises.
Angara assured that the bill sets limits for the exercise of powers that will be delegated to the chief executive under the measure.
The proposed measure is a substitute bill consolidating separate proposals of Angara, Senate President Vicente Sotto III, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senator Imee Marcos.
“When the pandemic mutates, we adapt. We may not be able to fully flatten the curve, but we must always be ahead of it,” Recto said in a sponsorship speech.
“This bill sets up a social safety net for those who will fall in the cracks, crank up stalled enterprises, rev up food production, ramp up virus testing that is essential for safe workplaces, so we will know when to pull the circuit breaker that will stop its spread,” he added.
Should it be signed into law, the measure will be immediately effective upon the end of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act’s effectivity “provided that it has been published in a newspaper of general circulation” and it “shall be in full force and effect until September 30, 2020.
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