President Duterte. (Photo courtesy of Asian Policy)

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte still needs special powers to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic that continues to beset the country, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said extending Duterte’s emergency powers is necessary to allow the government to augment the medical supplies for the treatment of Covid-19, as well as to supervise some private hospitals that are attending to the needs of virus-infected individuals.

“Of course, we would need to have emergency powers again,” Roque said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gives Duterte temporary emergency powers to fight Covid-19, is set to expire on June 25.

Malacañang has repeatedly stressed the need to pass another law that would extend Duterte’s special powers for him to further boost his administration’s Covid-19 response efforts.

Congress, however, adjourned sine die on June 5 without passing a bill that would extend Duterte’s emergency powers.

While he noted that the country remains in “good shape,” Roque expressed optimism that Duterte would be granted emergency powers to help the government combat Covid-19.

He said it would be difficult for Duterte to fast-track the procurement of medical supplies, once RA 11469 expires.

“The most important power that we can no longer exercise is the purchase of Covid-19 medical-related materials,” Roque said. “(This is because) it takes forever to comply with the Procurement Act for purposes of emergency medical purchases.”

Under RA 11469, Duterte is allowed to undertake the procurement of medical equipment “in the most expeditious manner, as exemptions from the provisions of Republic Act 9184 or the government Procurement Reform Act and other relevant laws.”

Roque said the government would encounter problems when the country runs out of all purchased medical supplies.

“For the immediate future, we have everything that we need. I guess the problem will be in the medium term when the equipment that we have on storage will be used up,” he said.

Roque also noted that Duterte’s special power to take over some private hospitals is also “important.”

He was referring to another provision of RA 11469 that authorizes Duterte to “take over the operations of private enterprises that unjustifiably refuse or signify that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The emergency power is important in this case because if they (private hospitals) don’t comply and if they don’t allot additional beds for Covid-19 patients, then we may have to take over some of these hospitals and hire our own nurses and doctors to man them. So that’s the importance of emergency powers,” Roque said. (ia/PNA)