House adopts Senate bill granting Duterte more powers in COVID-19 fight

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 23)— The House of Representatives adopted the Senate version of the bill that will grant President Rodrigo Duterte special authority to address the COVID-19 crisis in the Philippines.

In a special session, the committee passed House Bill No. 6616, which would declare a national emergency amid the rapid spike of COVID-19 cases in the country.

The measure, would authorize the chief executive "for a limited period and subject to restrictions", powers that would help address the infectious disease's outbreak.

These include the possible realignment of funding in the 2020 budget and the allocation of funds and investments of government agencies for the country's COVID-19 response.

The bill will likewise give the executive the power to purchase essential medical supplies such as personal protective equipment, assign venues that may be used as quarantine centers, as well as other goods and services for COVID-19-affected communities.

The proposed law also lets Duterte implement other preventive measures to curb the spread of the disease— including fast-tracking of testing for persons under investigation and monitoring (PUIs and PUMs), regulation of public and private transport, regulation of traffic on all roads, and ensuring compliance of local government units for the community quarantine standards.

The Philippines has recorded 396 COVID-19 cases as of Monday, including 33 deaths and 18 recoveries.