Philippines declares state of calamity due to COVID-19 outbreak

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2020 06:43 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2020 07:50 PM

Duterte orders price control for basic food commodities, medicine

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte has placed the Philippines under a state of calamity to enable government to respond better to the rapidly spreading coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Duterte, in Proclamation No. 929 signed on Monday, said the declaration would provide the national government as well as local government units enough leeway to tap into appropriate funds to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“Such declaration will, among others, afford the National Government, as well as LGUs, ample latitude to utilize appropriate funds, including the Quick Response Fund, in their disaster preparedness and response efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 and to continue to provide basic services to the affected population,” he said.

The state of calamity is effective for 6 months unless the President lifts it earlier or extends it further.

The President also asked all government agencies and local government units to mobilize all of the necessary and available resources to undertake measures and “eliminate the threat of COVID-19.”

Law enforcement agencies, with the support of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, are meanwhile directed to ensure peace and order.

The Philippines has so far confirmed a total of 187 cases of COVID-19, a pandemic that earlier prompted President Duterte to declare a state of public health emergency, and place the main northern island of Luzon lockdown to contain the spread of the disease.

PRICE CONTROL

Following the declaration of a state of calamity, the President also imposed a price control on basic food commodities and medical supplies as a preventive measure against hoarding and profiteering.

Under the Price Act, a price freeze on basic necessities is automatically imposed upon the declaration of a state of calamity.

“The ongoing global concern on the spread of the COVID-19 has increased the demand for essential emergency drugs and medical supplies, and basic food commodities, thereby making these products susceptible to acts of illegal price manipulation,” the President said in his Memorandum Circular No. 77 issued on Tuesday.

The President also mandated the Department of Health, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Trade and Industry to continuously monitor the prices of basic commodities and enact price control measures as provided by law.

GOV’T ROLLS OUT P27.1-BILLION PACKAGE VS COVID-19 OUTBREAK

To provide relief to sectors affected by the economic slowdown due to the virus outbreak, the government announced a P27.1-billion package in support of the Philippine economy.

The package, according to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, aims to ensure that there is enough funding for the Department of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19, and to provide economic relief to businesses affected by the disease outbreak.

“As directed by President Duterte, the government will provide targeted and direct programs to guarantee that benefits will go to our workers and other affected sectors. We have enough but limited resources, so our job is to make sure that we have sufficient funds for programs mitigating the adverse effects of COVID-19 on our economy,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

Among the important items in the fiscal support package is a P3.1-billion budget that will be used in support of health frontliners, including the acquisition of more COVID-19 test kits; and a P2 billion-package that will serve as the initial budget of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to help workers who might lose income during the disease outbreak.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno, meanwhile, said the Monetary Board is “ready to deploy any or all its policy tools, as appropriate, to address all challenges to our own financial markets and growth prospects.”

"There is no reason to believe that the COVID-19 crisis could severely cut the Philippine growth momentum. The truth is that the economic fundamentals are on our side. Even under the worst possible scenario, the Philippines can still grow this year and in the medium term by about 6 percent,” he said in a statement Tuesday.