• Melo Acuna

Barangay, LGUs to do surveys asap; assistance to middle class assured

President Duterte assures basic services for all

MANILA – With nearly 5,000 Filipinos found to be COVID-19 positive and 315 deaths reported by the Department of Health and against the ongoing Enhanced Community Quarantine, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte assured everyone that basic services in terms of food and cash assistance will be extended to affected families across the country.

In another late night address which began shortly before midnight Monday and ended over an hour later, the chief executive said in the absence of a national Identification system as proposed by government leaders several years ago but has failed to be approved until recently, he will order local government units from the village leaders to do an immediate survey.

“I don’t want any Filipino to die of hunger,” President Duterte said in Pilipino. He added another survey will be made with the village chairmen at the helm to find out who his constituents are.

He said what the government needs to know is where these unlisted people are so they could be reached by local government officials.

President Duterte said they are now extending assistance to some 18 million low-income families. However, it appears most people want to be extended help as well to he ordered a re-evaluation of their existing social amelioration packages.

During his over an hour address, the chief executive said the United States needs nurses to complement their medical front liners as COVID-19 seriously affected their health care system.

He said he cannot blame Filipino nurses seeking employment elsewhere are they benefits are far bigger than the wages given in Philippine government and privately-run hospitals.

“The Americans could have relied on their own human resource,” he further said which could have brought the Philippines to a more disadvantageous or difficult condition.

There are thousands of Filipino nurses and other medical professionals working in the United States for decades. New graduates continue to be attracted to foreign employment where wages are higher and commensurate to their efforts.

During the same meeting, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said in his meeting with World Bank officials a couple of days ago, he was told that President Duterte’s decisiveness in reducing the people coming to the Philippines last February and March and the declared lockdown “probably saved 100,000 lives.”

He reported to the chief executive that he has tasked the private sector to utilize their respective actuaries to have a clearer interpretation of available data.

Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendric Chua said there is a proposal to provide small businesses with a wage subsidy.

“Basically, we are going to help the middle class because in one of your speeches a few days ago, you want to help the middle class (who works in the formal sector),” Chua said.

He added apart from the P205 billion earmarked for the informal sector, the Department of Finance proposed to extend P51 billion to employees of small businesses. To further complement the efforts, an improvement on the social amelioration program is required because it is automated and different from the manual manner of helping the informal sector.

Mr. Chua explained they will utilize the data from the government-run Social Security System (SSS) and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). He underscored the details of the lockdown which placed the entire Luzon island under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or lockdown from March 15 to April 30 followed by quarantines declared in Visayas and Mindanao islands and led to the closure of businesses except those allowed by the Inter-Agency Task Force including those in the food, logistics, supermarket and drugstores.

“With 1.6 million small businesses in the informal sector, 436,000 businesses closed as the remaining one million workers because part of the skeletal force,” he explained.

He added the affected workers from the middle class reached 3.4 million and whether they come from low middle class or medium middle class, some 2.6 million are listed in the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s alpha list which means their employers comply with BIR regulations.

“These are the people we’re bound to help,” he said. However, there are 800,000 workers whose employers do not comply with government regulations that is why they will be considered second priority.

In closing, President Duterte called on the police and military not to hesitate to bring medical frontline workers to their respective homes as there are few vehicles plying the roads due to the lockdown.

“Give them a lift and deliver them to their houses,” he said as he concluded his address. (Melo M. Acuña)


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