As extended lockdown begins: Gov’t response stalled, stingy despite millions of Filipinos in need

April 14, 2020

by IBON Media & Communications

At the end of the original month-long lockdown period and on the first day of its extension, research group IBON said that the government is still failing to give millions of poor and vulnerable Filipinos the socioeconomic relief they need. Poor households have struggled to survive four weeks of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and will only endure greater difficulties during the two-week extension. The Duterte administration needs to let go of its burdensome bureaucratic requirements, increase funding, and expedite getting help to all families in need, said the group.

The Duterte administration released the third report on its COVID-19 response as required under the Bayanihan Heal as One Act or Republic Act (RA) 11469 which granted Pres. Duterte emergency powers. IBON said that millions of Filipinos are still not getting relief despite these emergency powers, even measured against the administration’s already low targets.

The group noted that no additional beneficiaries were given emergency subsidies since the 3.7 million reported last week. This is only one-fifth or 21% of the 18 million low-income families targeted by the government. They also only received an average of Php4,391 which is barely half the maximum Php8,000 the government promised.

Meanwhile, the number of workers and informal earners that received financial assistance has increased but this is still way below the millions of displaced workers and informal earners as per IBON estimates.

IBON said that the number of workers assisted by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) increased by only 79,553 to 167,941, which is just 1.7% of 10.7 million workers. The number of informal workers assisted went up by only 62,152 to 118,086, or only 2.3% of 5.2 million non-agricultural informal earners.

Emergency subsidies were also provided to 40,418 drivers at Php8,000 each through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Land Transportation and Franchising Board (LTFRB) and Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP). But this is just 9% of the 435,000 drivers targeted for assistance under the MOA, said the group.

IBON also noted that some farmers have finally received cash assistance from the Department of Agriculture (DA). The agency reported giving Php5,000 each in unconditional cash transfers to 319,489 farmer beneficiaries. However, this is only 3.3% of the IBON-estimated 9.7 million farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk needing assistance.

IBON said that the unambitious targets as well as snail-paced and measly socioeconomic response into the fifth week of lockdown only affirms government’s continued indifference and negligence, especially towards the poorest and most vulnerable. More and more Filipino families will be pushed into deeper poverty under the COVID-19 lockdown if government does not speed up and significantly expand socioeconomic relief and response to reach all those needing assistance, said the group.