Measure extending PRRD's powers to combat COVID-19 endorsed in Senate

Published June 1, 2020, 9:35 PM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Hannah Torregoza

A measure seeking the extension of the validity of the additional powers granted to President Duterte to address the COVID-19 problem has been endorsed in the Senate.

Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Senate of the Philippines (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, endorsed for plenary approval Senate Bill (SB) No. 1564, under Committee Report No. 98, which authorizes the President to exercise “necessary powers” to respond to the pandemic which has left the country’s economy struggling and the health sector under extreme pressure.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the bill seeks to extend the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act, or Republic Act (RA) No. 11469, which Congress rushed to pass into law last March.

Similar to the Bayanihan Act, the measure will grant the President the flexibility to realign budgets from agencies to fund the government’s COVID-19 response.

Known as the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act,” Angara said the measure will prioritize the augmentation of funds of the Department of Health, UP- Philippine General Hospital, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Social Welfare and Development, and allocations for local government units and quick response funds of other departments.

The Bayanihan 2 bill also seeks to establish a standby fund of P236 billion to provide more cash assistance for sectors affected heavily by the pandemic, as well as to intensify and streamline the government’s mass testing program and make it faster, affordable, and accessible to the people.

Angara said the proposed law also seeks to ensure an emergency subsidy for low-income households, especially those who were not able to receive any cash assistance during the last three months of the lockdown.

“This pandemic is a tragedy of many acts. As we begin a chapter, so must we write a new playbook,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said in his co-sponsorship of the bill.

“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 stressed.

He added that the bill will help cushion the impact of an “economic Armageddon.”

“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,” Recto said.

Aside from Angara and Recto, the others who pushed for the measure were Senators Zubiri, Recto, Imelda “Imee” Marcos, and Senate President Vicente Sotto III.