Here's What the Proposed Bayanihan Act Means

The Palace is calling for the grant of "emergency powers."

(SPOT.ph) The Philippines' COVID-19 cases continue to rise ever since the country's patient zero was confirmed to be positive on January 30: a Chinese national who flew to the country from Wuhan, where the virus outbreak started. To deal with the pandemic, President Rodrigo Duterte has put forth the "Bayanihan Act of 2020," which authorizes the President of the Republic of the Philippines "to exercise powers necessary and proper to carry out the declared national policy and for other purposes." It is expected that this will be discussed in Congress today, March 23, at 10 a.m.

The document, a copy of which was released by media outlets on Sunday afternoon, was signed by Duterte and sent to Senate President Vicente Sotto III on March 21. Copies were also furnished to House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano and Secretary Adelino Sitoy.

According to the Inquirer, Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo denied reports that the president was asking the legislative body for emergency powers. "The letter to Congress signed by the Executive Secretary says powers necessary to carry out urgent measures to implement the national emergency, not emergency powers," he said in a text message to reporters. Sotto likewise explained: "Not true. Read the title. Nothing there says emergency powers."

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Page 2, Section 3 of the document states: "By reason thereof, and in order to optimize the efforts of the President to carry out the tasks needed to implement the aforementioned policy, it is imperative to grant him emergency powers to such limitations as hereinafter provided."

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Here is a breakdown of Duterte's "emergency powers" should the proposed "Bayanihan Act of 2020" be approved:

National and Local Government

  • Ensure that all local government units, from the barangay captains to the mayor, are "acting in line with the rules, regulations, and directives issued by the National Government"
  • See to it that all local government units (LGUs) are "implementing standards of community quarantine that are neither more nor less restrictive than what the National Government has laid down for the subject area."
  • Allow alternative working arrangements in the National Government's Executive branch

National Budget

  • Control the budget "within the Executive Department, including government-owned or -controlled operations" as deemed "necessary, beneficial, or desirable" by the President
  • Direct all LGUs to revisit and reprogram their annual budgets to prioritize COVID-19 emergency response

Economy

  • Take over "any privately-owned public utility or business affected with public interest." These establishments include hotels, public transportation units, and telecommunication companies.
  • Control operations affecting the supply, distribution and movement of basic necessities like food, clothing, and medicine; as well as the distribution of power, fuel, energy, and water.
  • Take measures to "protect the people from hoarding, profiteering, injurious speculations, manipulation of prices, product deceptions, cartels, and monopolies."
  • Procure medical supplies—from PPEs to testing kits, get lease of real property or venue to house health workers or to serve as quarantine centers, direct the establishment of temporary medical facilities, and other services he would need—"in the most expeditious manner"
  • "Lower the effective lending rates of interest and reserve requirements of lending institutions" to make sure that businesses have remaining credit.
  • "Grant incentives for the manufacture or importation" of healthcare equipment and supplies as well as "require business to prioritize and accept contracts" for these materials.

Transportation

  • Control road, rail, aviation, and maritime transportation, whether public or private; as well as traffic on all roads, streets, and bridges.
  • Prohibit and remove encroachments and obstacles in public places.

For more stories on COVID-19, please click here. 

Main image from Wikimedia Commons

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