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Palace: President still needs emergency powers.

By Argyll Cyrus Geducos

As the Bayanihan To Heal As One law expired on Thursday, Malacanang said President Duterte still needs the emergency powers granted to him by the measure despite the country being "in good shape" for the time being.

In an interview over ANC's "Headstart," presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte will need the power to make purchases without having to comply with the Procurement Act in order to immediately purchase COVID-19-related medical items.

"The most important power that we can no longer exercise is the purchase of COVID-related medical materials," he said on Wednesday morning.

"I think we're in good shape. For now, we have everything that we need. Of course, we need to have emergency powers again because it takes forever to comply with the Procurement Act," he added.

Roque said the Philippines has received some of the personal protective equipment (PPEs) that it has ordered. It also placed a bid for 8 million COVID-19 testing kits, 1 million of which have already arrived. The country also has ventilators, some of which were already distributed to medical facilities.

"So I think for the immediate future we have everything that we need," he said.

Another important power, according to Roque, will be the power to take over private hospitals.

"There is also a possibility because what happened in Cebu is that the private hospitals only allotted X numbers of beds for COVID-19 patients and we've asked them to increase. We need critical care in Cebu City," he said.

"The emergency powers are important in this case because if they don't comply, then we may have to take over some of these hospitals and hire our own nurses and doctors to man them," he added.

Stimulus package

Roque expressed confidence that Malacanang and Congress can come into an agreement on the proposed stimulus package.

The pending bills in both houses of Congress incorporated both emergency powers and the stimulus package.

"That (stimulus package) is where there are differences with the Executive Branch. [Finance] Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez does not want the stimulus package to be something we cannot pay for. But I think negotiations are continuing," he said.

"But I'm confident that time will come that the Executive and both houses of Congress can agree on something and we can then ask Congress to hold a special session," he added.

Malacanang had earlier said that it is working on a stimulus package that will support workers who belong to the industries that remain suspended due to the COVID-19 quarantine after the expiration of the Bayanihan Act.


Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (YANCY LIM/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

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Title Annotation:National
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Date:Jun 24, 2020
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