Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go is in favor of holding a special session of Congress to approve a supplemental budget to address the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak in the country.
Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, made this remark after the House of Representatives’ Committee on Appropriations approved a PHP1.6-billion supplemental budget for the Department of Health (DOH) last March 10.
He said he will call for a special session if the government’s current funds would be insufficient.
“Hindi pwedeng ipagpaliban ang pagtulong natin sa mga nangangailangan (We cannot set aside helping those in need). Now, more than ever, we, as elected officials, must do everything we can to be of service to the Filipino people,” he said in a statement.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, however, assured that government still has sufficient funds available to combat Covid-19.
“Wala tayong problema sa funds. Gaya ng sinabi na ni Secretary Dominguez (We don’t have a problem with funds. Just like Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez said), we have sufficient funds,” he said in a Palace briefing on Monday.
To date, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have provided PHP2 billion and PHP420 million, respectively, to acquire Covid-19 test kits.
There is also around PHP539 million in DOH savings and PHP81 million from the DOH Quick Response Fund that can be utilized.
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) still has available contingency funds on standby.
Moreover, the declaration of a state of public health emergency allows local government units to utilize their local disaster risk reduction management funds under Republic Act 10121.
Most recently, the Asian Development Bank also pledged to grant of USD3 million to fight Covid-19.
Earlier, the DOH said it needed some PHP3 billion to respond to the rising number of infected patients. Of this amount, PHP2.35 billion would be spent on protective gear for health workers and PHP933 million for the Bureau of Quarantine.
It is also seeking an additional PHP139 million for the procurement of 40,000 test kits for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).
Meanwhile, Go appealed to the private sector to release 13th month pay earlier to help their employees provide for their basic needs while under enhanced community quarantine.
He also asks employers to suspend rental fees for renters and tenants and give a one-month reprieve on bills payments from basic utility providers.
He urged the public anew stay indoors as confirmed cases of Covid-19 have surged to 140 with 12 deaths.
Currently, the entire Luzon is now under “enhanced community” quarantine which requires “strict” home quarantine in all households, the suspension of transportation, the regulation of food and essential health services, and heightened uniformed personnel’s presence to enforce quarantine procedures.
“It means we will have to stay at home. Work will be suspended. When you say there is quarantine in your homes, it means you don’t need to travel. You don’t need transportation for that except only for medical and humanitarian reasons,” Panelo said. (PNA)