Duterte may call Congress special session if Russia-Ukraine war escalates

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 08 2022 05:12 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte Presidential Photo/file
President Rodrigo Duterte presides over a meeting with key government officials prior to his "Talk to the People" at the Malacañan Palace on March 7, 2022. King Rodriguez, Presidential Photo/file

MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would call a special session with Congress if Russia's invasion of Ukraine escalates, with economic managers worried over the war's impact locally.

In a recorded address to the nation on Monday night, Duterte said the special session aims to pass intervening measures to cushion the effect of the tensions in Europe, which includes the soaring fuel prices and prices of basic commodities.

Oil companies on Tuesday raised diesel prices by P5.85 per liter, and gasoline prices by P3.60 per liter.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua, during the meeting, proposed to the chief executive the lowering of tariff rates for pork importation and increasing the fuel subsidy and discount vouchers for transport drivers and farmers, and the nationwide shift to the loosest Alert Level 1, among other things, to keep prices steady.

"Mr. President, if the situation escalates, we could recommend a special session if mag-escalate," Chua told the President.

"In terms of the tariff reduction, since Congress is not in session, we will submit request for the issuance of an executive order. Dalawa lang po na kailangan ng batas, we will prepare it immediately so that Congress can consider it immediately when they return in May for a session," he added.

Congress is adjourned until May 22 this year to give way for the election period. Session will resume from May 23 to June 3.

Chua's recommendation came after meeting with the Cabinet's economic and development cluster.

Duterte, meanwhile, said he would consider the suggestion even if lawmakers are busy for the election period.

"Mas mabuti pa siguro kaya pag-isipan na lang natin ‘yan... Alam mo, so there’s gonna be an election, at after, there will be euphoria. Then nobody’s really focusing on anything except ‘yung pagpalit ng tao... So that would eat a lot of time," the President explained.

"Itong recommendations ng NEDA is really vital to the --- to keep the economy humming for --- for a few months. More so that there is, I think, maski na mahinto ito the fractured economy is already in Europe would affect us more or less by next year," he added.

"Prangka-prangkahan na lang natin ‘yung Congress. This is intended really for the welfare of the people. If you have the time, sit with us and we can discuss it. Otherwise, you’re on your own."

Acting Malacañang spokesperson Martin Andanar earlier in the day said measures are in place to mitigate the possible economic crisis and rising crude prices.

During the Palace briefing, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary Rosemarie Edillon said while they are looking at legislation to fast track the mitigating measures, it is not their priority.

"Mayroong mga action na requiring only executive action, executive approval. Ito po iyong mas madaling gawin talaga," Edillon said.

"Iyon po muna ang uunahin natin bago po iyong mga mangangailangan ng legislation kasi alam naman po natin na medyo matatagalan po iyon. So, unahin natin kung ano na iyong more or less within our control.

Duterte earlier approved the release of some P3 billion worth of fuel discount vouchers and subsidy for farmers and public transport drivers, to address to high fuel costs.

Malacañang also said Duterte approved boosting local food production to bolster the economy.

The Department of Energy (DOE) on Saturday, meanwhile, said there were discussions with the Philippine National Oil Corp. (PNOC) on a strategic petroleum reserve program for the country should a shortage occur.

Lawyer Rino Abad, director of the DOE's oil industry management bureau, said that based on his agency's monitoring as of February 28, the country has an average of "more than 40 days" of available oil supply.

Video from PTV