It has been three weeks since the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon has been implemented and nearly two weeks since President Rodrigo Duterte was given emergency powers to address the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, yet there is still no clear food relief, financial assistance and mass testing given to millions of workers and informal workers nationwide.
Despite the “stay at home” orders and closures of companies and establishments, many workers and vendors still risk to go out on the streets to earn for a living. These people will say they will not die because of Covid-19, but rather from starvation. Food relief from local officials are either missing or not enough for a working class family to last for a week.
Even the P5,000 – P8,000 cash grant subsidy to indigents is not readily given. Under special guidelines on the Provision of Social Amelioration, indigents need to comply with requirements such as documents proving they are employees. How will workers retrieve such documents when their bosses are on self-quarantine? How about the vendors and daily wage-earners? Even before the Covid-19 crisis, workers are already barely surviving with minimum wage or below minimum wages and without benefits.
With news that there are more than 2,000 cases of Covid-19 infection and more than 90 deaths, people are complaining, where is the relief? Where are the test kits that can give mass testing? What has happened to the P 275 billion emergency fund? What can a month of lockdown noted with arrests and harassment achieved?
As an institution that advocates for the protection of the rights of workers, we urge the national government to implement pro-people action and solutions to respond to Covid-19. They should understand that the failure to protect the health and economic well-being of the working class will mirror the failure of the Philippine economy.
The government should provide immediate relief such as food relief and financial support for the working people with minimum requirements. Systems should be implemented that will make this relief reach to all indigents and workers. They should also conduct mass testing in communities with suspected PUIs to detect who are infected and treat them. They should also provide shelter and food for the homeless rather than shooing them away or detaining them.
Also, it is important to call the government to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits and to increase the financial incentives for health workers and professionals in the front line of the battle against Covid-19. We must put our trust to the health practitioners in fighting this pandemic by providing them with proper medical equipments.
We can never win this battle if we continue to be deaf to the clamor of the basic masses.