MANILA – A lawmaker on Wednesday urged President Rodrigo Duterte to call for a special session in Congress to pass the proposed PHP1.3-trillion stimulus package to help the economy recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said financial aid should be available as the economy begins to gain momentum with the easing of quarantine restrictions in many areas of the country.

He said affected sectors have to be assisted as soon as possible so they could start to recover.

“Time is of the essence. We should approve this stimulus package to help various sectors crippled by the Covid-19 pandemic. If we wait until August or September after we convene for our second regular session in late July, we will have wasted precious time,” he said.

Rodriguez said the Constitution authorizes the President to call lawmakers to a special session “at any time during a recess.”

The proposed economic stimulus package is contained in the Accelerated Recovery and Investments Stimulus for the Economy (ARISE) Bill, which the House of Representatives passed on third and final reading last week before Congress adjourned its first regular session.

Meanwhile, the Senate’s proposed economic stimulus is contained in the second installment of the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, or the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, which proposes a PHP140-billion standby fund to finance Covid-19 response and recovery programs.

On the other hand, Department of Finance (DOF) Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has cautioned lawmakers against approving measures that the national budget cannot finance and increase the budget gap beyond the acceptable level.

In a speech during the Sulong Pilipinas e-conference with the business community Monday, Dominguez said several stimulus measures have been filed in Congress that have provisions “that make the proposals fiscally unsustainable.”

He said economic managers have raised their concerns with the lawmakers, adding the Constitution mandates the presence of excess funds and new revenues for any supplemental budget.

“In running a business or a company, we know that borrowings or loans are not revenues. We appreciate the wisdom behind the Constitutional provision for in the absence of additional revenues or income, we jeopardize our fiscal sustainability,” he added.

Dominguez said the huge amount of the program will push the government’s budget gap this year beyond what economic managers recently approved.

Dominguez said the government currently does not have the extra budget that is required by the Constitution to finance these proposals, adding “we cannot use borrowings as a support for that.”

He said this year’s PHP4.1-trillion national budget includes a borrowing program and this is what the economic managers are following when they tap fund sources here and abroad.

“What we cannot fund from borrowing is additional spending over and above the budget,” he said. (PNA)