By Mario Casayuran
With the growing threat of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), government agencies, particularly the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and local government units (LGUs), should implement services that will provide additional support for senior citizens.
Go, chairman of the Senate Health and Demography Committee, cited government data indicating that majority of COVID-19 fatalities are the elderly whose weak and compromised immune systems make them more prone to respiratory infections.
Go urged the DSWD to implement social welfare and social protection programs and services by prioritizing the provision of the Social Pension for indigent senior citizens, as well as providing Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), distribution of Food and Non-Food Items (FNIs), and Sustainable Livelihood Programs (SLPs) to vulnerable sectors most affected by the enhanced community quarantine.
This is in addition to the sustained provision of food assistance and non-food essentials to the most affected families and individuals, he explained.
Go reiterated the government advisory released on Wednesday that those who are most vulnerable, particularly seniors (60 years old and above), those with pre-existing medical condition, like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, COPD, cancer, and others, as well as pregnant women, should not go out of their homes.
The monthly Social Pension amounts to P500 per indigent senior citizen to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs.
Considered as indigent senior citizens are those who are frail, sickly, or with disability and without pension or permanent source of income or regular support from their relatives to meet their basic needs.
The AICS is an integrated services program of the DSWD to individuals and families in crises or difficult situations.
This program should be used to provide financial assistance to affected families. FNI includes the distribution of food packs and non-food essentials, such as toiletries, Go said.
The SLP, on the other hand, is a capability-building program for the poor, vulnerable, and marginalized households and communities.
It is intended to help improve their socio-economic condition through livelihood assistance. Through the SLP, Livelihood Assistance Grants may be distributed to recipients after the quarantine period as a way to cope with economic losses of affected families.
Go also identified some of the other vulnerable sectors that should also be prioritized in the provision of necessary assistance to affected Filipinos such as solo parents, indigent indigenous peoples, Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) and Transport Network Companies (TNC) drivers, and informal economy workers.
In order to avoid difficulties in the distribution of the relief assistance, given the travel restrictions imposed in Luzon and other areas in the country, Go is calling for door-to-door delivery of government aid, including the social pension for the indigent senior citizens. DSWD should be assisted by LGUs since the latter have the necessary database, according to the Senator.
In previous statements, Go emphasized the need to give more focus to the senior citizens in the country.
Go also called on the government to strengthen the implementation of Republic Act (RA) 9994, the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.” Aside from the usual benefits of senior citizens, indigent senior citizens are also “entitled to a monthly stipend amounting to five hundred pesos (P500) to augment their daily subsistence and other medical needs, in consultation with the DSWD.”
In addition, senior citizens are also entitled to free medical and dental services and diagnostic and laboratory tests.
The law also provides that “the Department of Health shall also administer free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizen patients.”
Senior citizens can also benefit from special discounts on basic commodities. It is subject to the guidelines set by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA).
“Now more than ever, we should do everything we can to be of service to the Filipino people. The government as a whole should still do its job in a manner that will not put the health of others at risk,” Go said.