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Senator says gov’t needs flexibility in COVID-19 response

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian agreed on Friday that the government should be given the “flexibilty” to be able to address to continuing COVID-19 outbreak and its impacts.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

“As long as there is uncertainty, the executive department needs the flexibility to realign budgets in the General Appropriations Act,” Gatchalian told reporters in an online interview.

“Flexibility is important in times of uncertainty. Hindi naman pwedeng balik nang balik sa Kongreso kung meron tayong second or third wave (They can’t just keep going back to Congress for legislation if there is a second of third wave or coronavirus spread),” he added.

President Duterte is expected to call for a special session to ask lawmakers to again grant him the necessary powers for COVID-19 response and recovery, following the expiry of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act on June 24.

Before adjourning sine die early this month, the Senate approved on second reading its proposed “Bayanihan to Recover as One” Act, or the Bayanihan 2, which proposes a P140-billion standby fund to continue the efforts against the pandemic, and help hard-hit sectors to recover.

But Gatchalian said the amount might not be enough to restart the economy, noting that more businesses in the country continue to suffer losses and lay off workers.

Citing his computation, the senator said at least P300 billion is needed to preserve jobs, by supporting businesses through loans or subsidies, to ensure that they will keep their employees.

Aside from job preservation, he said there should also be enough funds to sustain the health initiatives, specifically the testing and contact-tracing efforts.

He added that some support should also be given to education to implement the learning continuity plan amid the pandemic.

While he recognized the economic managers’ concern on the lack of available funds for COVID-19 response and recovery plans, Gatchalian believed that the government can still manage its fiscal deficits with his “not exorbitant”, P300-billion proposed fund.

Earlier, senators called on officials of the executive department to work with Congress and specify its ideal contents of the Bayanihan 2.


Source: Manila Bulletin (https://news.mb.com.ph/2020/06/27/senator-says-govt-needs-flexibility-in-covid-19-response/)

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