The national government is reopening the economy to alleviate hunger among Filipinos affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)-related lockdowns, Malacañang said Monday.
This, after a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, conducted from Sept. 17 to 20, showed a hunger incidence of 30.7 percent, the highest rate since the previous record of 23.8 percent in March 2012.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Palace is saddened by the survey result, but noted that reopening the economy would slowly alleviate hunger among Filipinos.
“Nakakalungkot itong balitang ito. Kaya nga po tayo nagbubukas ng ating ekonomiya para mapababa yung mga numero lalong-lalo na ng nagugutom (This report is saddening. That’s why we are opening the economy to reduce the number of hungry Filipinos),” Roque said in a virtual Palace briefing.
Roque acknowledged that poor Filipinos are most affected by the lockdowns, noting that even if restrictions have been eased, transportation modes remain limited.
He explained that under the general community quarantine (GCQ), only 50 percent of the economy is allowed to operate while this increased to 75 percent under the modified GCQ.
However, he said the national government has not neglected its obligation to provide necessary assistance to sectors most affected by the pandemic.
Roque said the government has started boosting public transportation while ensuring minimum health and safety standards are observed.
He said the “Bayanihan to Recover as One Act” or Bayanihan 2 and the proposed PHP 4.5-trillion national budget also finances cash-for-work programs for displaced workers and provides emergency subsidies to low-income households in areas under granular lockdown.
Roque appealed to the public to stay healthy and follow quarantine protocols so they can return to work despite the threat of the pandemic.
“Ang pakiusap natin, puwede naman ho magtrabaho habang nandiyan ang Covid-19 (Our appeal to the public is, we can work while the threat of Covid-19 exists),” he said.
According to Roque, hunger alleviation would also depend on the public’s capacity to take care of their health.
“Nakadepende po talaga ‘yan sa kung pangangalagaan natin ang ating kalusugan para makapag hanapbuhay ho tayo (It really depends on whether we would take care of our health so that we can work),” said.
Help less fortunate
San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBPC) will continue to help the less fortunate “especially those in the margins” through their Social Action Center (SAC).
“We can continue our Kindness Station and Kindness Store and strengthen the spirit of cooperativism,” he said in a statement. “We renew the call to tighten our belt so we can care for the poor and our common home.”
Alaminza is the vice-chairman of the CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace (CBCP-ECSA-JP).
Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila, the social action arm of the Archdiocese of Manila, said different sectors in the society should act as one to help the poor.
Pascual said the government has to provide food provision to the poor during the quarantine as people become hungry and their children malnourished. “The poorest of the poor are more afraid of hunger than the virus. All sectors must converge ASAP (as soon as possible) in the name of justice and extend help as soon as possible,” Pascual said.
Pascual said the result of the SWS survey is alarming and socially volatile.
“In third world countries during a pandemic, we will have double whammy of health and economic dilemma. In my weekly routine work in Caritas Manila of visiting urban poor communities and providing charity aid to jeepney drivers, the situation is untenable,” he added.
For his part, Fr. Jerome Secillano of the Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro Parish in Sampaloc, Manila said it is expected that people are getting hungry during this time, and asked those who have more to share to the poor.
“It’s expected because many have lost their source of livelihood due to the pandemic. But hunger can be beaten if those who have more can share something with those who have less. It may be a kneejerk response, but essentially better than not doing anything at all,” he added.
As of Monday, the Philippines logged 307,288 confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 252,665 are recoveries with 5,381 deaths. (
Source: Philippines News Agency