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Senate to hold hearings centered on COVID-19 updates next week

The Senate agreed on Wednesday to hold a series of hearings focusing on COVID-19 updates next week to provide policy direction in crafting the economic stimulus package and other legislative measures suitable for the country amid the global pandemic.

In line with this, the chamber approved to constitute itself into a committee of the whole which shall be presided by Senate President Vicente Sotto III.

The plenary sessions will be converted into hearings of this panel wherein executive officials will be invited to give insights on the pandemic situation.

The said move was proposed by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto earlier this week and was supported by his colleagues.

Sotto said this does not mean that the Senate is not satisfied with the weekly reports of President Rodrigo Duterte to Congress which has been mandated by the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

"Hindi sa hindi kuntento kaya lang maraming tanong, napakaraming tanong. Kailangan talaga magkaroon tayo ng public hearing," he said in a virtual interview prior to the plenary session.

The hearings will be conducted by clustered topics from Monday to Wednesday next week, he added.

For Monday, the committee of the whole will convene at 1:30 p.m. with resource persons from the economic team of the government and selected leaders of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases including the Department of Health.

Tentatively slated for Tuesday are the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Tourism, and Department of Labor and Employment.

The guest lists for the said hearings are yet to be finalized and preparations on sending out invitations have started.

The Senate President said the public may expect a "hybrid" form of hearings so that the lawmakers and resource persons would be able to observe social distancing.

Meanwhile, a separate online hearing will be conducted by the Senate committee on public services on Monday morning regarding the situation in the transport sector. — RSJ, GMA News