MANILA – The government will ensure that no Filipino will go hungry as the government ramps up its efforts to curb the transmission of the 2019 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in the country, President Rodrigo Duterte said late Monday night.
In a televised public address, he said government will “make up for the loss of economic opportunities” caused by the Luzon-wide quarantine by launching “the largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history” which is expected to help low-income households bounce back from the crisis.
“We have allotted PHP200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis,” he said.
He was referring to a provision under the Bayanihan to Heal as One law (Republic Act 11469) that allows government to realign PHP275 billion from the national budget in an effort to reduce the transmission of Covid-19 in the country.
Of this amount, around PHP200 billion is expected to be utilized for the emergency subsidy plan for the 18 million low-income households.
These low-income households will be receiving financial assistance between PHP5,000 and PHP8,000 in a span of two months.
The remaining PHP75 billion will be used for “health-related initiatives and other services”.
He said this amount will be distributed to those in the informal sectors living on day-to-day subsistence or “no-work, no pay” arrangements.
Despite these available funds, Duterte said he is also counting on middle- and upper-class Filipinos to support the less privileged during the health crisis.
“I still count on everyone to also look out after their fellowmen — their countrymen. To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking care of the less fortunate and keeping our society intact,” he said.
He also appealed to the private sector to contribute in dealing with this national emergency.
“We implore employers to do their part in protecting the welfare of the millions of Filipino households that belong to the formal sector and depend on their employers for continuous livelihood,” he said.
Besides the subsidy for low-income households, he said government will also provide a recovery package—especially to micro, small, and medium enterprises—to help deal with the economic effects of this pandemic. He said his economic team is currently drafting the guideline.
He also assured farmers and fisherfolk of quick response measures to help them during the crisis while at the same time ensuring food productivity, availability, and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic.
“To our farmers and our fisherfolk: We have not forgotten you,” he said.
He also vowed to ensure the unhampered flow of cargo to maintain a steady supply of food, goods and other essential supplies and items.
Currently, a price freeze on commodities is already in effect as well as measures to curtail hoarding and profiteering, he added.
“Uulitin ko — hindi ito panahon para kumita. Hindi ito panahon ng pagsasamantala (I repeat, now is not a time to profit. It’s not a time to take advantage),” he said.
On top of this assistance, he said food packs and essential non-food items are also being distributed to local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.
He said that areas in the Visayas and Mindanao are receiving similar assistance.
There will be more food packs given to augment the requirements of LGUs in the coming days, he added.
“Gagawin ko lahat para walang magutom (I will do everything to ensure that no one will go hungry),” he said.
Under the Bayanihan law, the executive branch is required to submit a report to Congress every Monday on how the powers are used.
The report must include the amount and corresponding utilization of funds used, augmented, reprogrammed, reallocated, and realigned. (PNA)