By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
President Duterte is set to call for a special Congress session to augment government funds to use against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak and provide assistance to families affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he was informed by Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go that Duterte is heeding their appeals for a special session to approve a supplemental budget to address a possible food and financial crisis, as well as public order disruption, amid the strict quarantine being imposed to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sen. Bong Go just called. PRRD will call a special session. Will write me and [House Speaker] Alan [Peter Cayetano] tomorrow (Friday),” Sotto told reporters in a Viber message Thursday night.
Sotto said members of the legislative branch will convene the special session that may be held next week. As of writing, he was discussing with his colleagues when exactly they will hold the session.
But Sotto, quoting Go, said Duterte “wants to start distributing cash come Wednesday.”
Congress is currently on recess and is scheduled to resume on May 4.
Sotto said most of his colleagues have committed that they will be physically present in the special session.
“I have their assurance,” he said.
Sotto earlier recommended to the executive department to call for a special session to discuss particularly the passage of a food subsidy budget for daily wage earners whose incomes were affected by the ECQ imposed over Luzon.
He proposed a supplemental budget of at least P27 billion for the provision of a P300 daily subsidy for each family for the duration of the month-long quarantine.
Sotto said the funds could be increased to cover other regions in Luzon, as well as the additional funds requested by the Department of Health to help in their fight against COVID-19.
Go confirmed Duterte’s plan to call for a special session in a statement later.
“President Duterte has already responded to this recommendation and has called on Congress to hold the Special Session immediately,” the long-time Duterte aide said.
“Based on our discussion, the priority is to ensure that additional funds can be allocated for immediate healthcare needs and for much-needed financial and food assistance to Filipinos, particularly the vulnerable sectors, daily wage earners and informal economy workers affected by the strict quarantine measures,” he added.
He said he has also spoken to Cayetano whom he said likewise expressed readiness to hold a special session amid the COVID-19 crisis.