The "Bayanihan To Heal As One Act" Is Now a Law; Here's What You Should Know

The President can enact "temporary emergency measures" to fight COVID-19.

(SPOT.ph) President Rodrigo Duterte has signed into law a bill that allows him additional powers to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines. This was confirmed by Bong Go, his former aide and now senator, on Wednesday, March 24

The "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" grants the President special powers to implement "temporary emergency measures" in the face of the COVID-19 crisis in the country. The Palace earlier asked for "emergency powers" to deal with the pandemic through the "Bayanihan Act of 2020." Both chambers of the House met on Monday, March 23, passed their own versions, and adopted the senate version on the same night.

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Under this law, the President is granted additional powers for a period of three months—unless extended by Congress or cut short by a resolution. Duterte can redirect government funds to the fight against COVID-19, direct the operations of private businesses if needed, and further regulate basic services like transport and energy. 

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Here's what you should know about the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act":

What will the funds be used for?

  • Around 18 million low-income households will receive a P5,000 to P8,000 emergency subsidy for up to two months. 
  • A compensation of P100,000 will be given to health workers who contract the disease
  • The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation will shoulder health workers' medical expenses for any kind of work-related medical need
  • Aid of P1 million will be given to each of the families of health workers who died of the disease while in the line of duty
  • The President can allot budget for purchase of medical supplies such as personal protective equipment; the Department of Health is mandated to prioritize facilities designated for COVID-19 cases or are treating COVID-19 patients

How does it affect private businesses?

  • Duterte can, under special circumstances, direct the operations of private businesses and utility services to serve the needs of frontliners (i.e. housing, quarantine areas). Proper compensation will be given. While the "temporarily take over" clause was present in initial versions of the measure, it was not in the approved Senate or House versions
  • Transport and traffic will also be regulated; utilities such as fuel, energy, and water are included
  • Both House and Senate versions included a measure which allowed the President to grant a 30-day grace period for payments such as taxes and residential rentals, as well as excemption for import taxes on goods needed to fight COVID-19

What are the terms of the "special powers" period?

  • The President has been granted additional powers for a limited time; three months to be exact. Congress has the sole power to extend the period. It may also be cut short by an earlier resolution.
  • In the congress-approved versions of the bill, the President is mandated to give a weekly report. It must detail how the funds were used.

There are, as of writing, 552 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease in the Philippines. It has been barely a month since patient zero was confirmed on January 30. Stay safe and don't forget to wash your hands!

Main image from the Presidential Communications Operations Office

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