By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Grace Poe on Tuesday called on the government to consider the plight of informal sector workers in the programs that it will create to cushion the impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the local economy.
In her appeal to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF), Poe said that members of the informal economy are “now more vulnerable than ever” after an enhanced community quarantine, or a total lockdown, has been declared over the whole of Luzon.
“‘Yong mga nangongolekta ng basura, nagbebenta ng taho at fishball, pati na rin ang mga tricycle at jeepney drivers, street-sweepers at construction workers–sila ang pinaka tatamaan ng enhanced community quarantine. Kung hindi sila makakapagtrabaho ay wala rin silang ipapakain sa kanilang pamilya,” she said in a statement. (The garbage collectors, those who sell street foods, as well as tricycle and jeepney drivers, street sweepers and construction workers — they are the ones who would be most affected by the enhanced community quarantine. If they will not be able to work then they would have no money to feed their families with.)
She said families of informal sector workers should also be listed as beneficiaries of food packs and relief assistance.
Citing data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Poe noted that about 650,000 Filipinos are engaged in low-paying jobs in the informal sector. They contribute around P5.013 trillion to the economy or around one-third of the country’s gross domestic product growth.
“They have given so much to the Philippine economy, yet they are not covered by social security. It’s only fair that they are given adequate assistance during this difficult period,” she said.
Government economic managers on Monday announced that they are rolling out a P27.1-billion package to help health workers in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and provide economic relief to affected sectors. The fund will come from various agencies.
More than half of the fund, P14 billion, was allocated for programs to help the tourism industry, which was affected by the travel restrictions imposed to contain the disease.
Some P3.1 billion, meanwhile, will be used for health measures, such as in the production of testing kits.
P2 billion, meanwhile, was set aside for social protection programs for vulnerable workers, such as wage subsidy or financial support.
Under the enhanced community quarantine, residents shall observe a strict home quarantine, all forms of public transport are suspended, and the presence of police and military personnel is increased to prevent unnecessary travels around Luzon.
As of Monday, March 16, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Philippines rose to 142.