President Rodrigo Duterte will call a special session of Congress to pass the proposed stimulus package for the COVID-19 response and recovery efforts, Malacañang said Thursday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said it was important to pass an economic stimulus bill to propel the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
“Under the Constitution, the President may call for special sessions, which are usually held between regular legislative sessions to handle emergencies or urgent matters,” Roque said.
He made the statement even as the leadership of the House of Representatives assured officials of the speedy passage of the Bayanihan 2 once Malacañang made the request, House Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez said.
He also said the compensation fund for medical front liners falling victims to the Coronavirus disease would be included in the bill’s money provisions.
“We are still awaiting the official communication from the Palace,” said Romualdez, co-chairman of the Defeat COVID-19 Ad-Hoc Committee.
“The House leadership under Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano is committed to approve the Bayanihan to Recover as One bill or the Bayanihan II to help President Rodrigo Duterte kick-tart our economy and strengthen the government’s fight against the spread of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said since Congress adjourned sine die without passing the second part of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, they were now working with other agencies to finance the benefits of health workers from other resources.
Under the Bayanihan Law, health care workers receive compensation once they are infected, hospitalized or die of the coronavirus disease.
A health care worker who gets infected with the coronavirus will receive P100,000, while those who die of it will receive P1 million each.
Vergeire says the total number of health care workers who have contracted COVID-19 has reached 3,422, but only one of them is in critical condition.
And as of June 29, at least 2,514 of them have recovered.
Citing information from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, Roque says the Executive branch will ask the Senate and the House of Representatives to convene in a special session after the details of the stimulus package have been ironed out.
He says the special session may take place before July 27, when Duterte delivers his fifth State-of-the-Nation Address.
The Bayanihan law grants the President additional powers to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. It was signed into law on March 24 but expired on June 25.
Roque says extending the effectivity of the law will provide benefits to the people who need it, and they include health workers.
He says the government wants new funding for testing subsidies and the hiring of 50,000 contact tracers.