Research group IBON said that the Duterte administration’s financial assistance to families affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) is so little that it is plainly just an afterthought. Giving assistance clearly only entered the government’s mind when it once again resorted to an ill-conceived ECQ to try and contain the uncontrollable spread of COVID-19, said the group.
The Duterte administration announced that it will distribute assistance to some 22.9 million low-income households affected by the renewed ECQ in the National Capital Region, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Bulacan (dubbed NCR+). It promises Php1,000 per individual to be distributed by the local government units (LGUs) as cash or in kind.
The so-called supplementary Social Amelioration Program (SAP) is evidently hastily being put together just now, said IBON. The group said that after a year, the government has noticeably forgotten about giving aid and has not even bothered to make any contingencies or guidelines for providing further emergency cash subsidies.
IBON also observed how the budget for this is not being determined by the needs of Filipino families being driven into deeper distress. Instead, the allocation for aid is decided based merely on the amount of leftovers from COVID-19 response funds that should have already been spent. The economic managers said financing would be sourced from Php23 billion in unspent Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) funds.
As a result, said IBON, only a measly Php1,000 is being allotted per individual including for those who have already suffered joblessness, loss of incomes and livelihoods, and depleted savings after over a year of lockdowns. This is even less than two days of the NCR minimum wage of Php537, said the group.
IBON added that the assistance looks even more meager compared to its estimated family living wage (FLW) of Php1,064 as of February 2021. The FLW is the amount needed by a family of five members each day to meet their basic needs.
As it is, even the very few families getting the full amount of emergency cash aid under Bayanihan 1, Bayanihan 2 and this supplementary SAP would only have gotten around Php15,607 to help tide them over the 54 weeks of lockdowns since March 15, 2020. This is the sum of average assistance received under the SAP 1st tranche (Php5,637) and SAP 2nd tranche (Php5,970), and assuming a family gets the maximum Php4,000 supplementary SAP today.
IBON said that poor and low-income families in NCR+ deserve not just Php1,000 but at least Php10,000 in emergency cash subsidies to be distributed immediately, or ten times more than being offered after a year of lockdowns. This should even be given for at least three months and then to at least the poorest 18 million or even 22.5 million families, stressed the group.
Substantial emergency cash subsidies will provide immediate relief to tens of millions of Filipinos as well as significantly spur aggregate demand to help the economy recover faster, said IBON.