Philippines

After Duterte got extra powers, what now? – Pangilinan

By April 5, 2020 No Comments

MANILA, Philippines — Five days since President Rodrigo Duterte was granted additional powers to address the COVID-19 epidemic in the country, what has been the progress so far?

This was the question raised by Senator Francis Pangilinan on Monday as he urged the government to report on the development of measures in place in accordance with the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act that Duterte recently signed into law.

Under the law, Duterte was granted additional powers but shall submit to Congress every Monday of each week a report of all actions performed to deal with the COVID-19 spread.

Pangilinan said the report must answer various questions ranging from resources to health and economic strategies.

“We’re almost halfway in our enhanced community quarantine, at katulad ng nabanggit natin sa ating pahayag nang ipasa ng Senado itong batas na ito, gusto nating makita na ipinapatupad ang ang batas at inilalaan ang pondo nang ayon dito at gaya ng inaasahan,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

On resources

The Bayanihan to Heal As One Act allows Duterte to “direct the discontinuance of appropriated programs, projects or activities (P/A/P) of any agency of the Executive Department, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs), in the FY 2019 and 2020 General Appropriations Act, whether released or unreleased, the allotments for which remain unobligated, and utilize the savings generated therefrom to augment the allocation for any item directly related to support operations and response measures, which are necessary or beneficial in order to address the COVID-19 emergency.”

It further gives Duterte the authority to “reprogram, reallocate and realign from savings on other items of appropriations in the FY 2020 GAA in the Executive Department”.

Pangilinan stressed Malacañang should discuss these points in its report to Congress.

“The law specifies savings from the Executive Branch and its special purpose fund, how much resources have been identified for this anti-COVID all-Philippines’ effort?” Pangilinan said.

On health strategies

Pangilinan said the report must likewise address the government’s plans in terms of health-related matters such as free testing and availability of personal protective equipment (PPEs) and other medical supplies.

“The law focuses on prompt and free testing, has a system been put in place to do this during the lockdown? What about a system for transporting front-liners? Have the donated medical products in the BoC (Bureau of Customs) been released?” Pangilinan said.

“How many test kits, PPEs, medical devices, and medicines have since become available? What seems to be hindering the conduct of these tests? At what stage of preparation for the peak of COVID cases are we?” he added.

Among the emergency measures stated in the law is hastening and streamlining the accreditation of testing kits as well as the facilitation of “prompt testing by public and designated private institutions” of patients under investigation (PUIs) and persons under monitoring (PUMs).

There is also a provision on the procurement “in the most expeditious manner” of PPEs such as gloves, gowns, masks, goggles, and face shields and other medical equipment and supplies, among others.

On economic strategy

Pangilinan further asked about the government’s plan on the supply of food and other essential items.

“The law foresees the continuing need for food and other essential goods, has the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) lifted its order for food manufacturers to stop operations? How long will the present food supply last?” Pangilinan asked.

“How many food producers (farmers and fishers), food workers (in food, medicine, and medical supply manufacturing), and transport and logistics personnel (drivers, pahinante) have been granted passes?” he added.

Further, the senator asked how many households have already received the P5,000 to P8,000 in emergency subsidy as stated in the law.

Under the law, some 18 million households are entitled to get an emergency subsidy from a minimum of P5,000 to a maximum of P8,000 for two months computed based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rate.

In addition, the prevailing cash transfer program and rice subsidy will be considered in the computation of the emergency subsidy.

KGA

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