President Rodrigo Duterte early this morning signed a bill granting him additional powers to manage the COVID-19 outbreak in the Philippines.
The president’s former aide, Christopher Bong Go, confirmed to reporters that Duterte had signed the Bayanihan (“Camaraderie”) to Heal as One Act of 2020, a consolidated version of two bills that Congress passed a day earlier.
The final version of the measure passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives now grants the president 30 “special powers,” including providing cash aid of up to PHP8,000 (US$157) for 18 million low-income families, compensation of PHP100,000 (US$1,959) for health workers severely infected by the virus, and payouts of PHP1 million (US$9,591) for families of those killed by the virus in the line of duty.
The law also grants Duterte the power to take over private medical facilities and public transport, require businesses to prioritize and accept contract services that would help fight COVID-19, and undertake other measures “as may be reasonable and necessary” to respond to the pandemic if the public interest requires it.
Yesterday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement that the law is a response to an “urgent need” for a “swift and efficient implementation… which will secure the success of the measures established by the national government in eradicating the threat to our national survival.”
“There is an urgent need to implement measures that will help address the health scare brought about by the spread of COVID-19 in our land,” he added.
The Bayanihan Act will be valid for three months unless extended by Congress or terminated earlier through a Presidential proclamation or a concurrent resolution. The president will also be required to to submit a weekly report updating Congress every Monday.
Duterte signed the act a week after he put the entire island of Luzon under enhanced community quarantine to curb the spread of the virus. The quarantine is expected is expected to end on April 13.
Meanwhile, confirmed COVID-19 cases, deaths, and recoveries in the Philippines continue to rise. As of this morning, the Philippines had recorded 552 COVID-19 cases, with 35 deaths and 20 recoveries.
Subscribe to The Coconuts Podcast for top trending news and pop culture from Southeast Asia and Hong Kong every Friday!