Duterte: Bayanihan Act enables gov’t to move, decide, act freely to address COVID-19 threat

Published March 24, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Genalyn Kabiling

The government can “move, decide and act freely” to address the coronavirus emergency following the enactment of the Bayanihan measure into law, President Duterte announced Tuesday night.

(Photo from Sen. Bong Go)
(Photo from Sen. Bong Go)

The President signed into law the landmark “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” that grants him additional powers to implement measures to fight the coronavirus spread. Republic Act No. 11469, the Bayanihan measure, will be in effect upon publication and shall remain in force for three months unless extended by Congress.

Senator Christopher Go confirmed the signing of the Bayanihan measure and shared to the media the President’s photo affixing his signature to the document Tuesday night.

“I especially thank Congress for granting the executive department with special powers — through the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act— to effectively respond to the challenges caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic,” Duterte said in a taped public address Tuesday.

“Finally, the Executive Department can move, decide, and act freely for the best interest of the Filipino people during this health crisis,” he added.

Duterte also thanked Senate President Vicente Sotto III and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano for their strong and decisive leadership in shepherding the passage of the bill. He also extended his gratitude to the members of both houses of Congress who sponsored and voted for the measure.

“I express my sincerest gratitude to all of you for granting our most urgent requests,” he said.

The Bayanihan measure was passed by Congress during a special session on Monday amid the sharp increase in coronavirus cases in the country.

The new law declares the existence of a national emergency arising from the coronavirus situation, as well as authorizes the President for a limited period and subject to restrictions, to exercise powers necessary and proper to deal with the virus threat.

“In view of the continuing rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the serious threat to the health, safety, security, and lives of our countrymen, the long-term adverse effects on their means of livelihood, and the severe disruption of economic activities, a state of national emergency is hereby declared over the entire country,” the law read.

The new law grants the President additional powers to realign certain funds in the national budget, direct the operation of private hospitals, hotels, and transport firms to augment medical facilities and services, among others, to address the coronavirus threat. It also aims to provide a the two-month emergency subsidy program for around 18 million poor families affected by the lockdown in Luzon.

Under the law, the President shall have the power to adopt the following temporary emergency measures to respond to the coronavirus:

1. Adopt and implement measures to prevent and suppress the further transmission and spread of COVID-19 through effective education, detection, protection, and treatment;

2. Expedite and streamline the accreditation of testing kits and facilitate the prompt testing by public and designated private institutions, and compulsory and immediate isolation and treatment of patients;

3. Provide emergency subsidy ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 to around 18 million low income households for two months;

4. Provide public health workers with a “COVID-19 special risk allowance” in addition to hazard pay;

5. Direct the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to shoulder all medical expenses of public and private health workers in case of coronavirus exposure or any work-related injury or disease

6. Provide P100,000 compensation to public and private health workers who may get infected with coronavirus in line of duty while P1 million will be given to those who may die while fighting the coronavirus pandemic. This will have a retroactive application from February 1, 2020;

7. Ensure all local government units are “acting within the letter and spirit” of rules and regulations, including quarantine guidelines, issued by the national government;

8. When the public interest so requires, direct the operation of any private hospitals and similar facilities to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution locations, as well as public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and front line personnel;

9. Continue to enforce measures to protect people from hoarding, profiteering, price manipulation, cartel, and other illegal trade practices;

10. Ensure that donation, acceptance, and distribution of health products are not delayed. Health products for donation certified by regulatory agency or their accredited third party from countries shall be automatically cleared;

11. Undertake expeditious procurement of the following as the need arises: personal protective equipment, medical supplies, testing kits; goods and services for social amelioration measures; lease of real property or venue for use to house health workers, serve as quarantine centers or medical distribution locations and facilities; establishment, construction, and operation of temporary medical facilities; utilities, telecommunications, and other services in relation to quarantine and medical operations;

12. Partner with the Philippine Red Cross as the primary humanitarian agency auxiliary to the government to give aid to the people subject to reimbursement;

13. Engage temporary human resources for health such as medical staff to complement or supplement the current health workforce or man temporary medical facilities;

14. Ensure the availability of credit to productive sectors of society such as lowering lending rates of interest and reserve requirements of lending institutions;

15. Liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture or importation of critical or needed equipment or supplies;

16.Ensure the availability of essential goods, particularly food and medicine, by adopting measures to minimize disruption in the supply chain;

17. Require business to prioritize and accept contracts subject to fair and reasonable terms for materials and services;

18. Regulate and limit the operation of all land, sea, and air transpiration;

19. Regulate traffic and access on all roads, streets, and bridges, prohibit the putting up of encroachments or obstacles, authorize the removal of encroachments and illegal construction in public places;

20. Continue to authorize alternative working arrangements for employees and workers in the Executive branch;

21. Conserve and regulate the distribution and use of power, fuel, energy, and water and ensure adequate supply;

22. Direct discontinuance of appropriate programs of any agency of the Executive branch in the national budget and utilize savings to augment allocation related to coronavirus support operations and response;

23. Any unutilized or unreleased balance in special purpose fund shall be considered to have their purposes abandoned during the state of emergency. All unspent funds shall be appropriated for COVID-19 response;

24. Reprogram, reallocate, and realign from savings on other items in the 2020 national budget as may be necessary and beneficial to fund COVID-19 measures;

25. The President is authorized to allocate cash, funds, investments, including unutilized or unreleased subsidies and transfers held by government agencies and state firms;

26. Move statutory deadlines for the filing and submission of document, payment of taxes, fees, and other charges to ease the burden of people under community quarantine;

27. Direct all public and private banks and similar financial institutions to implement a minimum of 30-day grace period for the payment of loans, credit card payments, without interests and penalties;

28. Provide a 30-day grace period on residential rents falling within the quarantine period without interests and penalties;

29. Implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program;

30. Lift the 30 percent cap on the amount set for the quick response fund during the emergency period;

31. Undertake other measures as may be reasonable and necessary to enable the President to carry the national policy subject to the Bill of Rights and other constitutional guarantees.

The law also requires the President to submit a weekly report to Congress of government acts, including the disbursement of funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated, and realigned.

A joint congressional oversight committee will also be formed to determine whether such acts, rules, and regulations are within the restrictions.

The law, signed by the President on March 24, will take effect immediately after publication in a newspaper of general circulation or in the Official Gazette.