ECQ disrupts livelihood of 19M: Millions of working people left behind by poor gov’t response

Research group IBON estimates that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) has disrupted the livelihoods of 18.9 million working people. Some 7.7 million working Filipinos and their families have not received emergency subsidies and are being pushed into deeper poverty, and that what support has been given has not even been enough to cover the almost seven week-long military lockdown. The group said that the Duterte administration’s poor response is causing widespread suffering and passing the burden of containment onto the poorest and most vulnerable.

IBON estimates, using 2018 and 2019 labor force data, that 18.9 million working Filipinos or 45% of 42.4 million employed have been displaced by the ECQ. ‘Displaced’ refers to job losses, part-time work, reduced pay, and other disruptions in livelihoods especially by informal earners.

Most of these are: vendors, shopkeepers, and sales persons in the wholesale and retail trade subsector (4.4 million); construction workers (2.7 million); farmers, farm workers and fisherfolk (2.5 million); pedicab, tricycle, jeepney and truck drivers and mechanics in the transport sector (1.8 million); manufacturing workers (1.5 million); and hotel and restaurant employees (1 million). The balance is largely in other sectors especially services.

The government promised to give 18 million households assistance through Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Agriculture (DA) programs.

The DSWD Social Amelioration Program (SAP) is the largest program, supposedly reaching 18 million, but where beneficiaries of similar DOLE and other programs will no longer be eligible. The DOLE’s programs include CAMP for formal workers (650,000 beneficiaries), TUPAD for informal workers (235,948) and AKAP for overseas Filipino workers (135,720). The DA’s RFFA and FSRF programs target 591,246 beneficiaries.

A month-and-a-half into the ECQ, IBON said that the government has only been able to give emergency subsidies to 11.2 million beneficiaries according to latest data available. These are from the DSWD (10.2 million), DOLE-CAMP (407,3000), DOLE-TUPAD (275,0000), DOLE-AKAP (70,000), and DA (354,875).

This means that, even according to government targets, there are 6.8 million beneficiaries without cash assistance to compensate for the lost income of families or their breadwinners who were displaced due to the lockdown. Measured against the 18.9 million estimated displaced by IBON, 7.7 million working Filipinos and their families still need to be reached.

The cash assistance given has also been very slow and much less than needed to compensate for the month-and-a-half disruption in livelihoods. The government’s official poverty line is an average of Php10,727 for the whole country but beneficiaries have been getting much less than this.

According to the president’s 5th report to Congress on the government’s COVID-19 response, the average assistance received is mostly very low: 4Ps beneficiaries (Php4,392); non-4Ps (Php5,771); PUVs/TNVS drivers (Php8,000); workers under CAMP (Php5,000); and informal workers under TUPAD (Php2,611). Reported aid is only relatively large for overseas workers under AKAP (Php10,000) and farmers (Php11,971).

IBON said that working Filipinos are a key force in helping the country overcome and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The Duterte administration should give their full support to and aid those displaced. It should immediately remove bureaucratic hurdles to accessing social amelioration and address inefficiencies. It also needs to ensure sufficient funds to cover all vulnerable Filipinos. Also, government assistance should not only be given for the duration of the lockdown but also until households have recovered from weeks of lost wages and incomes.

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