Press Release
March 19, 2020

Covid special session

SENATE President Vicente Sotto III on Thursday pushed for the holding of a special session of Congress to address the looming public order and financial crisis brought about by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that is now imposed over the entire Luzon region.

Sotto said he has discussed his recommendation with Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez and a high-level economist.

"I suggest for Congress to pass a food subsidy budget in order to provide for the daily wage earners who lost their income," Sotto said.

The Senate chief said that while a P500 per day per family would be the ideal subsidy, a P300/ family day assistance will have to do considering the financial constraint that such an additional expenditure would cause the national treasury.

"Compute the NCR poor to be the beneficiaries. Compute the Calabarzon, the Central Luzon (Region 3) poor who will be affected. The rates may vary in the provinces that have access to fish, vegetables and other basic food supplies. In the NCR, the poor do not have access to these," Sotto said.

Sotto added: "Assuming there are three million poorest of the poor in NCR, with each family consisting of five members. That will be 15 million NCR residents who will be assured that their families will not go hungry while the ECQ is in place."

The proposed P300/family/day subsidy for 30 days in the NCR will amount to about P27 billion. "The experts can extrapolate depending on the number of poor," Sotto said.

Sotto said the subsidy scheme can also be applied in other regions that are threatened with limited food supplies because of the "no work, no pay" policy being enforced by private companies.

Sotto said that while he agrees that home quarantine and social distancing is necessary at this time, government should make an exemption and take risks amid the worsening COVID-19 crisis.

"Lawmakers should bite the bitter pill in an emergency situation such as this. We need to get on our feet and make sure that our people, especially the poorest of the poor, do not worry about going hungry at a time when they should be focusing their attention on staying healthy," Sotto said.

Sotto said Congress could hold the special session with a skeletal work force. "We do not need a full staff in a special session. As long as there are recorders and a limited number of people to operate recorders, I suppose that will be enough. We will work on only one issue to be submitted by the Palace," he said.

He appealed to his colleagues in the Senate: "Let us pool all our suggestions and be prepared should the President decide to call for a special session."

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