Congress will likely hold a hybrid joint session when President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on Tuesday next week.
Some of the legislators will be in actual attendance at the Session Hall, while the rest will be in their homes or offices throughout teleconferencing.
Reporters will not be allowed at the Batasan, the House of Representatives said in a statement.
House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said that after presidential spokesman Harry Roque announced that Duterte would be physically present during the SONA, preparations on the hybrid joint session started on Tuesday.
He said the “blended” SONA would be similar to the teleconference-type sessions done by the House, with a limited number of guests actually present and the rest attending through a teleconferencing computer application.
"When I say blended, I mean some are at the location while others are not,” Cayetano said.
Roque said Duterte might be at risk of contracting COVID-19, but as the country’s highest elected official, he could not abandon his task of giving an annual report to Congress at the opening of its regular session.
He said Duterte aims to send the message that life goes on despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said he expected the President to discuss the administration’s comprehensive plan to ease the plight of Filipinos and mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The upcoming SONA is an opportunity for the President to present an overall comprehensive plan on how the country will survive this pandemic,” Drilon said in a radio interview.
“At the top of our wish list is to hear the President’s plan on how to revive our economy heavily hit by the pandemic and help millions of our countrymen, including hundreds of thousands of overseas Filipino workers who lost their livelihood.”
Cayetano said officials must adapt to the situation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic since a vaccine to prevent the disease had yet to be developed.
“What I am trying to prevent is the filling up of the Session Hall and later some of those present are reported to have acquired the disease. Thus, no vaccine, no regular physical attendance.
“Safety will be the top priority, but we will make sure that the President’s speech will be communicated nationwide.”
The House, meanwhile, notified reporters that only the members of the Presidential Broadcast Staff-Radio Television Malacañang will be allowed at the premises during the SONA.