Minority senators want special session for additional COVID-19 funds

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 17 2020 07:07 PM | Updated as of Mar 17 2020 07:08 PM

MANILA - The Senate minority bloc has called for a special session to grant additional funds for executive agencies battling the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Congress, which is on a 2-month break, needs a special session "to pass a supplemental budget to address the pandemic and help affected Filipino households, workers, and businesses," according to a statement released on March 15, 2020.

“In view of the increasing number of #COVID19 cases, we in the Minority call for a special session of Congress," it said.

While the executive branch has yet to request additional funds, the Senate minority expects government to need more funds for massive testing, relief goods, and cash support for daily wage earners who may lose their income during the month-long lockdown in Luzon.

Senate Health Committee chair and administration Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go earlier said he was willing to sponsor the additional budget, but Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the executive has sufficient funds to battle the disease that has infected nearly 200 people in the Philippines.

Government earlier announced a P27.1-billion spending plan for the outbreak response, including the acquisition of more test kits and social protection programs for vulnerable workers and business owners. 

Luzon, the country's most populous island, was placed on enhanced community quarantine Tuesday midnight to contain the spread of COVID-19. It halted mass transport, barred gatherings, suspended work and school, and urged people to stay home in a bid to contain the virus. 

President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday afternoon also placed the entire country under a state of calamity to give the national government and local government units access to quick response funds. 

The Philippines has recorded 187 COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, with 12 dead and 4 recovered. 

The global pandemic, which originated from Wuhan, China, has killed at least 5,000 people and infected 150,000 others worldwide.