MANILA – The executive branch is still assessing the need for Congress’ special session to tackle proposed “Bayanihan 2” which contains a stimulus package to revive the country’s economy after the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, Malacañang said on Thursday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque issued the statement a day after Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate is no longer keen on a special session for the passage of Bayanihan 2 since Congress is set to resume its second regular session on July 27.

In an online forum on Wednesday, Sotto said the Palace’s plan to call for a special session “will not really have a big effect at this point.”

Roque, in a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4, agreed with Sotto.

“Tina-tantiya nga po kung kinakailangan pang tumawag ng special session kasi malapit na rin po naman talaga ang pagbubukas ng regular session ng Kongreso. Tignan po natin (We are evaluating whether there is still a need to call for a special session because Congress’ regular session is scheduled to open [this month]. Let’s see),” he said.

On July 2, Roque announced that President Rodrigo Duterte is set to ask Congress to hold a special session to discuss the passage of Bayanihan 2.

Roque’s previous announcement came after the country’s economic team was able to iron out issues concerning the proposed economic stimulus package which was designed to ensure the country’s recovery from the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“Bayanihan 2” will serve as a supplemental measure to Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which already expired on June 25.

RA 11469 gave Duterte 31 emergency powers to address the Covid-19 crisis in the country.

The Senate and the House of Representatives have already drafted their different versions of a proposed measure replacing RA 11469.

Their proposed bills, however, were also different from the executive department’s proposed law, which limits the cost of the stimulus package to only PHP140 billion.

One of the 31 temporary special powers granted to Duterte under the now-expired RA 11469 was the granting of emergency subsidies ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 to around 18 million poor families affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malacañang earlier said the expiration of RA 11469 would not affect the distribution of cash assistance to low-income households.

Roque, in his latest remarks, apologized anew for the delayed release of the second tranche of emergency subsidies under the social amelioration program (SAP).

He also reassured SAP beneficiaries that they would get the financial aid faster, once the government is able to settle all the issues hounding the electronic disbursement of SAP assistance.

“Para doon sa susunod na mga ayuda, kung meron man, eh mas mapabilis na rin. Kumbaga one step backward, two steps forward po ang ginagawa natin (We will be able to speed up the distribution of assistance to beneficiaries. It’s like we’re doing one step backward, two steps forward),” Roque said.

Around 17 million poor families are expected to benefit from the second phase of SAP.

The government has partnered with GCash, Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation, Robinson’s Bank, PayMaya, and Starpay to ensure the speedy release of the second wave of payouts for SAP beneficiaries. (PNA)