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COVID-19: Philippines President seeks emergency powers

Rodrigo Duterte seeks powers to temporarily take over private businesses amid measures to curb spread of novel coronavirus

Riyaz ul Khaliq   | 23.03.2020
COVID-19: Philippines President seeks emergency powers

ANKARA 

The president of the Philippines is seeking powers to temporarily take over the operation of private businesses in a bid to fight the coronavirus pandemic, local media reported.

Rodrigo Duterte has requested that the country's lawmakers grant him the power in the "public interest," Rappler.com news website reported.

Duterte's move comes as a bill is being debated in the country's parliament that, if passed, would enable Duterte to declare a national emergency against the disease, known as COVID-19.

The country's Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea told lawmakers that the proposal to take over private businesses was "only meant to be a standby power" to respond to the fast-spreading of the virus.

"And now I come to the requested power which is stirring some controversies since yesterday and I believe unjustifiably so -- the power to take over private establishments. Even as originally worded, the intent of the proposal was simply to grant to government a standby power," Medialdea added.

"It is a power which [we] do not consider necessary to be exercised at all times because the establishments that are needed to deal with this crisis have, to their credit, have mostly been cooperating with government," he said.

Some 33 people have died due to the coronavirus in the Philippines, where there are currently 396 confirmed cases while 18 others have recovered.

Duterte also closed the country's main island which houses over 57 million people to stem the spread of the disease

The coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China last December and has spread to at least 167 countries and territories. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

The number of confirmed cases worldwide has now surpassed 341,000 while the death toll has reached 14,000 and over 98,800 have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

Despite the rising number of cases, most who become infected suffer only mild symptoms and recover.

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