MANILA— President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday sought the speedy passage of a bill that would give the country's chief executive emergency powers against red tape during national emergencies, in a bid to boost the pandemic-battered economy.
Duterte certified as urgent Senate Bill No. 1844 that seeks to authorize the President to expedite the processing and issuance of national and local permits, licenses and certifications.
The move will “facilitate economic activity, accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country, and ensure the prompt delivery of public services in times of a national emergency such as the present COVID-19 pandemic,” read Duterte’s letter to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
Bills certified as urgent are exempt from a rule requiring lawmakers to study the measure for at least 3 days before voting on it.
Under the bill, the President will also be allowed to "suspend or remove" any government official who will be proven to have delayed the issuance of documents to any individual or corporation.
With the urgent certification from Duterte, the Senate is expected to pass the measure on third and final reading Wednesday, said Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri.
Duterte earlier met with Senate and House leaders to ask for the passage of a measure that would eliminate red tape and corruption in government. He offered to be invited as resource person during the bill's deliberations, but did not push through with his Senate appearance.
In July, Duterte mandated all government agencies to adopt new technologies to make "physical queue a thing of the past" as the Philippines tried to limit outdoor movement in confined spaces to avoid the spread of COVID-19.
The health department on Tuesday reported 1,990 new coronavirus infections, the lowest number in three weeks, and 40 additional deaths. In a bulletin, the agency said total confirmed cases in the Philippines have risen to 344,713, the highest number in Southeast Asia, while deaths have reached 6,372.
Duterte, 75, faces the enormous task of pulling the Philippine economy, which before the coronavirus pandemic was one of Asia's fastest-growing, out of recession and creating work for millions left jobless.
The Philippines is forecast to see a 6.9 percent economic contraction this year, the World Bank has said, the biggest since the 1980s and worse than the government's projected 5.5 percent decline.
Its recovery has been constrained by an unrelenting first wave of infections since March, that limited its ability to fully reopen businesses, internal travel and restart domestic and international tourism. - With reports from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News; Reuters