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Senate minority backs session for budget to fight outbreak

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THE Senate Minority bloc has called for a special session to allow Congress to pass a supplemental budget to help contain the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

“In view of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases, we in the Minority call for a special session of Congress to pass a supplemental budget to address the pandemic and help affected Filipino households, workers, and businesses,” the Minority Senators said in a joint statement, Sunday.

The bloc includes Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Senators Francis N. Pangilinan, Risa N. Hontiveros-Baraquel and Leila M. de Lima.

The budget is intended to cover procurement of additional test kits, equipment, such as protective gear and hospital beds, relief goods, and medicine. It will also fund the deployment of additional health personnel as well as cash assistance for daily wage earners.

It will also fund subsidies or low-cost loans for businesses, particularly micro- and small-enterprises, whose operations were disrupted during the community quarantine.

Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri last week said the Senate is ready to hold special sessions if President Rodrigo R. Duterte calls for it.

Speaker Alan Peter S. Cayetano has said the House of Representatives is willing to resume session during its March 14-May 3 break to discuss the supplemental budget.

President Rodrigo R. Duterte placed Metro Manila under community quarantine until April 14 and imposed restrictions on domestic land, air and sea travel to and from the National Capital Region.

The Metro Manila Council announced plans for an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew pending enactment of curfew ordinances by the component cities.

“How will the government cushion its impact on the livelihood of workers who will be temporarily laid off because of business inactivity?” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares said in a statement Sunday.

“What assistance can the government offer to small businesses which will be forced to shut down operations or operate in reduced hours?”

Senator Panfilo M. Lacson advised the Philippine National Police to be cautious in exercising its functions during the quarantine.

“Law enforcement authorities may not be legally equipped to conduct arrest unless local ordinances are available for its enforcement,” he said in a separate statement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan





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