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Monday, March 30, 2020

President Duterte spells out measures to provide relief, shield economy

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte updates the nation on the government's efforts in addressing the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Malago Clubhouse in Malacañang on March 30, 2020. KING RODRIGUEZ/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

The government is undertaking key measures to overcome and recover from the effects of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte said on Monday, a week after signing a legislation aimed at combating the contagion.

In an address to the nation, President Duterte said the three priority measures include Providing Emergency Assistance to Affected Sectors, Securing Facilities and Resources for the Health Sector, and Performing Fiscal and Monetary Actions for the Economy.

To provide emergency assistance to affected sectors, the government has launched the largest and widest social protection program in the country’s history to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to the imposition of quarantine measures.

“We have allotted 200 billion pesos for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis,” the President said.

“Sila ang nasa informal sector and those who live day-to-day on subsistence wages or “no-work, no-pay” arrangements. Beneficiary-households will receive emergency support for two months based on the regional minimum wage.”

Under the measure, the government will provide a recovery package especially to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to help them deal with the economic effects of the pandemic, President Duterte said, adding his economic team is already crafting the guidelines.

The country’s farmers and fisherfolk will also receive support and the government is now employing quick response measures to help them during the crisis as well as to ensure food productivity, availability, and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic, according to the President.

The government also ensured unhampered flow of cargoes and their workers to maintain the continuous and steady supply of food, goods and other essential supplies and items. And to curtail hoarding and profiteering, the government imposed a price freeze on commodities.

“Food packs and essential non-food items are also being distributed to LGUs in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon,” he said.

“Contaminated areas in the Visayas and Mindanao are receiving similar assistance. More will be given to augment the requirements of LGUs in the coming days as we repackage the items in our stockpiles. Gagawin ko lahat para walang magutom.”

To protect frontliners, especially health workers, the government is deploying state resources to provide them with tools and protective equipment. The government is currently procuring medical supplies, devices and personal protective gears.

The President said about one million medical protective items are being acquired, noting the government and the private sector are working together to purchase or produce the necessary quantities.
The country’s capacity to conduct broader tests is also being ramped up to take a fuller and more accurate picture of the spread of COVID-19 in the country.

“We will also build, operate and accredit more medical facilities and laboratories in the coming weeks,” President Duterte said.

The Chief Executive also issued an order through the Executive Secretary laying down the responsibilities of each department in implementing the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which he signed last week.

The President gave LGUs marching orders, emphasizing the need for sufficient authority, so that they do not have to go the Office of the President in carrying out their tasks.

As he confronts the pandemic, President Duterte told the nation that he has reserved two powers in the law that he could exercise depending on necessity.

These powers include the power of the President to direct the operation of private establishments and the power to require businesses to prioritize contracts for materials and services necessary for the crisis.

“I will exercise these powers only when absolutely necessary,” he said.

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