THE PHILIPPINE Senate on Wednesday approved on third and final reading a bill giving President Rodrigo R. Duterte special powers to quicken permit and license approvals amid a coronavirus pandemic that has sickened almost 350,000 people.
Senate Bill 1844, which will empower the President to fast-track processes for new and pending applications for permits, licenses and certifications during times of national emergencies.
Mr. Duterte on Wednesday certified the bill as urgent, allowing the chamber to do away with the three-day requirement before a bill passed on second reading could be approved on final reading.
The measure is expected to “facilitate economic activity, accelerate the socioeconomic recovery of the country and ensure the prompt delivery of public services in times of national emergency,” Mr. Duterte said in his letter to Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III.
The Department of Health (DoH) reported 1,910 coronavirus infections on Wednesday, bringing the total to 346,536.
The death toll climbed by 78 to 6,499, while recoveries increased by 579 to 293,860.
There were 46,227 active cases, 84.5% of which were mild, 10.5% did not show symptoms, 1.6% were severe and 3.3% were critical.
Metro Manila reported the highest number of new cases with 624, followed by Cavite with 219, Batangas with 104, Rizal with 91 and Negros Occidental with 63.
Of the new reported deaths, 35 came from Metro Manila, 12 from the Calabarzon region, seven from Central Luzon, six from Northern Mindanao, five from Western Visayas and three each from the Ilocos and Davao regions.
The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) reported two deaths while the Bicol region, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula and Soccsksargen reported one each.
More than 3.9 million people have been tested for the disease, the agency said.
Mr. Duterte placed the country under a state of calamity in March until last month as the government tried to contain infections. He extended this for a year until September 2021.
The Senate bill will also allow the President to suspend or waive requirements in securing documents at the national and local levels.
The coronavirus has sickened 38.4 million and killed 1.1 million people worldwide, according to the Worldometers website, citing various sources including data from the World Health Organization (WHO). Almost 29,000 people have recovered from the virus, it said.
It added that active cases stood at 8.4 million, 1% of which or 70,036 were either serious or critical, according to the website.
The United States had the most infections at 8.1 million, followed by India with 7.2 million and Brazil with 5.1 million. The US also had the most deaths at 220,873, Brazil had 151,063 and India had 110,645. — Charmaine A. Tadalan and Vann Marlo M. Villegas