Congress sets special session Monday to tackle COVID-19 response


Posted at Mar 21 2020 06:48 PM | Updated as of Mar 21 2020 07:19 PM

Congress sets special session Monday to tackle COVID-19 response 1
A soldier takes the temperature of a passenger of a truck offering free rides at the border of Cainta and Pasig on Ortigas Avenue on March 20, 2020. Fernando G. Sepe Jr., ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Members of the legislative branch will hold a special session on Monday, March 23, to deliberate President Rodrigo Duterte's request for emergency funds for government's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) response.

Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, who was at the meeting of Malacañang and Congress officials Saturday, said in a statement that both chambers of Congress will convene at 10 a.m.

"Both Houses of Congress, through the Senate President and through the House Speaker, have expressed their readiness and have committed to work fast in order to pass the necessary measures immediately given the urgency of the matter," Go said.

According to the senator, a proposed bill from Malacañang, which "seeks to grant authority to the President to do what may be deemed necessary to fund measures to address and respond to the COVID-19 health emergency, including recovery and rehabilitation," among others," will be sent to Congress "immediately."

"More importantly, it will give flexibility for needed realignments in the budget of concerned agencies so that they can prioritize the provision of immediate healthcare needs, as well as food and cash assistance to affected Filipinos, particularly those belonging to vulnerable sectors," Go added.

Senate President Tito Sotto, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Interior Secretary Eduardo Año attended the meeting.

Earlier in the day, Congress postponed its plan to hold a special session over the weekend after announcing that the legislative branch will gather to discuss Duterte's request.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo had said Duterte sought a P1.6-billion supplemental budget to support the country's efforts against COVID-19, including buying face masks, medicine and other medical equipment for frontline workers battling the disease.

"Kasi seryosong-seryoso si Presidente, kailangang sirain na natin ang virus na ito (The President is really serious, we need to destroy this virus)," Panelo had said.

The Philippines is under a state of calamity as the government taps into emergency funds to procure food and medical equipment for frontliners.

Luzon was placed under an enhanced community quarantine to curb the spread of the virus.

The Philippines has recorded 307 COVID-19 cases, including 19 deaths and 13 recoveries, as of Saturday.