Members of the Lower House of Congress attend a special session with desks arranged to observe social distancing among members in Manila on March 23, 2020, to discuss a proposed emergency power to be given to President Rodrigo Duterte to tackle the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
AFP/Ted Aljibe
Extension of Congress session sought to pass 'vital' COVID-19 response bills
( - June 2, 2020 - 12:34pm

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker sought for the extension of the session of Congress until next week to make way for the approval of important bills that will boost the government’s response to the coronavirus disease crisis.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro City) filed House Concurrent Resolution 8, seeking to extend the first regular session of the 18th Congress until June 11. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate are scheduled to adjourn sine die on June 5.

Rodriguez said extending the session would give Congress “additional time to pass vital legislation.”

“Many other important measures are needed to help the country during and in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other measures that would be beneficial to the country,” Rodriguez said.

These, the legislator said, include the Accelerated Recovery and Intervention Stimulus for the Economy of the Philippines, the Financial Institution Strategic Transfer Act, the COVID-19 Related Anti-Discrimination Act, the COVID-19 Unemployment Reduction Economic Stimulus Act of 2020, and the Better Normal for the Workplace, Communities and Public Spaces Act of 2020.

The proposed P1.3-trillion economic stimulus package is seeking to provide wage subsidies to workers of private companies affected by the COVID-19 crisis and zero and negative interest loan programs.

“There are other measures still pending including various bills mandating the establishment of pop-up bicycle lanes for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic; House Bill 6865 or the ‘Crushing COVID-19 Act’; and House Bill 6811 extending the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act by three months,” he said.

Approved in a special session last March 23, the Bayanihan Act granted the president authority for three months to realign funds to distribute emergency cash aid to the poor and those who were left jobless by the pandemic, and impose stiffer penalties for local officials refusing to comply with emergency measures.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday certified as urgent the proposed tougher anti-terrorism law, which is feared to clamp down on people’s basic freedoms. Bills certified as urgent can be passed on second and third reading on the same day.

As of Monday, the Philippines has recorded 18,638 cases of COVID-19 with 960 deaths. Some 3,979 patients have recovered from the disease. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

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