Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte 20191002
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Image Credit: AP

Manila: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law that authorises him to exercise "stand-by powers" necessary to carry out urgent measures to deal with the COVID-19, Senator Christopher Go said on Wednesday.

The act, entitled the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, was passed by the Congress following a marathon special session on Monday, Xinhua reported.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in an earlier statement that the law grants "stand-by powers to the president to carry out effectively the national policy of stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus disease which has endangered the lives of the Filipino people."

Among others, the law authorised the president to expedite and streamline the accreditation of testing kits, facilitate prompt testing of suspected cases and provide emergency subsidy to 18 million low income families in the country.

The measure also empowered the president to temporarily direct the operations of "privately-owned hospitals, medical and health facilities including passenger vessels and other establishments" when the public interest requires.

The management and operation of enterprises will be retained by the owners, according to the law.

The law also tasked the president to ensure the availability of essential goods, in particular food and medicine, and protect the people from illegal and pernicious practices affecting the supply, distribution and movement of certain essential items.

"The Filipino people are assured that the powers granted to the president shall be enforced strictly in accordance with the constitution. The grant of powers is for a limited period and subject to the restrictions contained therein," Panelo added.

The Philippines has so far recorded 552 COVID-19 cases, including 35 deaths, according to the Department of Health.