MANILA – Malacañang urged Filipinos to “act as one” following the signing of a law which gives President Rodrigo Duterte special authority to lay out stringent measures to prevent further transmission of the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country.
“We urge our countrymen to act and move as one nation to slay this scourge of a dragon that imperils our very existence,” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Wednesday.
Quoting Duterte’s televised speech on Tuesday night, Panelo said: “Let us set aside our differences and work in solidarity to overcome this pandemic. We only have one common enemy and that is Covid-19.”
Duterte will exercise the powers strictly in accordance with the Constitution, he said.
He also thanked both chambers of the Congress for granting the special powers, and health care workers who put their lives on the line to treat patients afflicted with Covid-19.
The newly-signed Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act 11469) gives Duterte authority to realign the government’s national budget and savings to better respond to the Covid-19 national emergency.
It gives Duterte authority to facilitate the immediate testing of persons under investigation (PUIs) and monitoring (PUMs), and direct establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, or relief and aid distribution venues.
The granting of financial allowance, hazard pay and compensation or shouldering their medical expenses, and direct public transportation to ferry them to and from their workplaces is also among the provisions under the law.
Duterte will also have authority to expedite the procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE) suits and other medical equipment, ensure that there will be no delays in the donation, acceptance and distribution of health items, and liberalize the grant of incentives for the manufacture and importation of critical and needed equipment.
The law authorizes alternative working arrangements for workers and regulate and limit the operation of transportation and traffic.
It also provides subsidies to low-income households, implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) for those affected by the quarantine, ensure availability of credit to productive sectors, reschedule deadlines for the filing of government requirements, and order a grace period on paying residential rents or loans.
The law will take effect immediately upon its publication and will remain in force for three months.
Duterte is also mandated to submit a weekly report of all acts performed thereunder to Congress, which shall establish an oversight committee to determine that said acts are within the restrictions it has imposed.
The law contains penalty for those who violate its provisions.
Duterte earlier declared a public health emergency and state of calamity all throughout the country to minimizing the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19.
He imposed a Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine to limit public’s movement to accessing basic necessities.
Currently, there are a total of 552 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the Philippines and 35 fatalities. (PNA)