President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday addressed a nation sickened with COVID-19 and appealed to lawmakers for the passage of a second "Bayanihan" or pandemic response law — this time aimed at national recovery.
The State of the Nation Address was delievered as a nationwide virus quarantine entered its 20th week, 11 of which were spent under a lockdown or enhanced community quarantine. Restrictions were eased on June 1 and with it, cases rose. As of Sunday, confirmed COVID-19 cases topped 80,000. Since mid-March, the new normal required face masks, frequent hand-washing, physical distancing and staying at home, except for work and essentials.
The second "Bayanihan" Law will focus on economic recovery, according to a draft of the Senate version. Among others, it seeks to extend cash aid and grace periods on loan payments for those under lockdown or enhanced quarantine. It also seeks a P140-billion standby fund for test kits, interest-free loans for farmers and fishermen.
In keeping with the new normal, it also seeks to promote bike lanes for commuters and fast internet that will enable e-commerce, a growing sector as people are forced to work, shop and do business from their homes. The Senate and the House laid out similar agendas when they resumed sessions earlier Monday.
The 75-year-old leader urged lawmakers to treat Bayanihan 2 with the same "clarity, purpose and the fastness" given to Bayanihan 1. The SONA complied with pandemic protocols. Only a handful of lawmakers were present at the Batasang Pambansa main session hall. All guests underwent COVID-19 tests and were required to wear face masks.
"We live in a troubled time. Our dream of prosperity for our country was suddenly snapped by a pandemic, a virulent virus. No nation was spared. Neither rich nor poor were spared from the onslaught of this deadly disease," he said.
"Let us not despair. The vaccine is around the corner. Sooner and not later, the virus that gobbled up thousands of lives will itself be laid to rest," he said.
"We must facilitate the country's economic recovery," he said.
Duterte said he was aiming to bring COVID-19 testing to 1.4 million by end-July with results released in 48-72 hours.
Metro Manila, home to a tenth of the country's roughly 100 million people and which accounts for a third of the economy is in danger of returning to a lockdown or modified enhanced community quarantine should local authorities fail to slow infections. It is under general community quarantine or GCQ, like most of the country, until July 31.
The virus lockdown that shut some businesses tipped the economy into a recession and caused unemployment to shoot up to a record 17.7 percent, padding the number of jobless people to 7.3 million. It has also caused high stress to 8 in 10 Filipinos, according to a Social Weather Stations survey.