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Palace: Duterte still needs emergency powers to fight Covid-19

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte still needs the emergency powers to address the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic despite the country being “in good shape” for the time being, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said extending Duterte’s emergency powers was necessary to allow the government to augment the medical supplies for the treatment of Covid-19, as well as to supervise some private hospitals that were attending to the needs of virus-infected individuals.

“The most important power that we can no longer exercise is the purchase of Covid-related medical materials,” Roque said during an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.

“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.

Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gives Duterte temporary emergency powers to fight Covid-19, is set to expire on June 25.

Malacañang has repeatedly stressed the need to pass another law that would extend Duterte’s special powers for him to further boost his administration’s Covid-19 response efforts.

Congress, however, adjourned sine die on June 5 without passing an emergency powers bill.

But Roque expressed optimism that Duterte would be granted emergency powers to help the government combat Covid-19.

He said the government would encounter problems when the country runs out of all purchased medical supplies.

“For the immediate future, we have everything that we need. I guess the problem will be in the medium term when the equipment that we have on storage will be used up,” he said.

Roque also noted that Duterte’s special power to take over some private hospitals was also “important.”

He was referring to another provision of RA 11469 that authorizes Duterte to “take over the operations of private enterprises that unjustifiably refuse or signify that they are no longer capable of operating their enterprises” due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“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,” Roque 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.

On Tuesday, the Philippines reported 31,825 Covid-19 cases with 8,442 recoveries and 1,186 fatalities.

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