By Genalyn Kabiling
Malacañang has called for an inventory of private hospitals and other establishments that may be used for government’s operations against the coronavirus pandemic.
The Department of Health, Department of Transportation, Department of Tourism, and the Office of Civil Defense have been directed to prepare the list of available or potential assets and submit it to the Office of the President.
The order was contained in a copy of a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last March 28. Medialdea confirmed on Tuesday the existence of the memorandum.
The latest Palace order was issued following the passage of Republic Act No. 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.” The new law grants the President additional powers to address the coronavirus outbreak, including the authority to direct the operation of private hospitals and other facilities to augment medical facilities and services.
“For purposes of implementing the authority of the President to direct the operation of any privately owned hospitals and medical and health facilities including passenger vessels and, other establishments, to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, quarantine centers, medical relief and aid distribution locations, or other temporary medical facilities; and public transportation to ferry health, emergency, and frontline personnel and other persons, or take over the operations of the foregoing enterprises, the DOH, the DOTr, DOT, and the OCD are directed to submit to the Office of the President an inventory of all available or potential assets, and proposed guidelines to exercise such power,” a copy of memorandum read.
“Such guidelines must conform with the relevant limits enshrined in Section 17, Article XII of the Constitution,” it added.
The constitutional provision allows the State to temporarily take over or direct the operation of private public utility or business “in times of national emergency, when the public interest so requires.”
The same memorandum noted the President’s authority to require business to prioritize and accept contracts subject to fair and reasonable terms for materials and services needed for the COVID-19 response.
The Palace has urged concerned government agencies and the private sector to “first negotiate in good faith” about such contracts.
“Should any contracting party for contracts over such materials or services refuse to give such contract a priority, anyone who has personal knowledge of the contract and the acts of the offending party is enjoined to report the same to the Office of the President to enable the President to exercise the foregoing power,” the memorandum read.