By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said the economic team was already tasked to look into how the government can give assistance to the “middle class” affected by the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
Nograles, who is also the spokesman for the Inter-agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, made the statement after President Duterte agreed with Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla that those belonging to the “middle class” should also be included in the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) intended for those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual presser, Nograles said the middle class cannot be included in the SAP but assured the public that the IATF and the economic team will look into Remulla’s proposal.
“Hindi sila puwede sa social amelioration, so kailangan pag-aralan natin ano pang maaaring programang ibigay natin sa kanila,” he said. “Iyong mga nasa informal, iyong mga mahihirap nating kababayan, iyon po ang uunahin natin. Pag-aaralan po itong sa middle class.”
(They cannot be included in the social amelioration program so we have to study what kind of program we can implement for them. Those belonging to the informal sector, our poor countrymen, will be prioritized. We will study the options for the middle class.)
The Palace official said the government can help the middle class in other ways and not through the SAP.
“Hindi naman sila tugma sa (They do not meet the) guidelines ng (of) social amelioration. So, there has to be another program with another fund source and another set of guidelines,” Nograles said.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a social amelioration package also; there are other ways wherein we can help the middle class and not in the same as the social amelioration,” he added.
In his open letter, Remulla asked President Duterte to consider including the middle class in the program as they are often overlooked by the government.
“They are often overlooked. They pay the most taxes. They keep our economy alive. They are mostly law-abiding citizens. They need a break,” he added.
The government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, started distributing cash aid ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 last week to poor Filipino families as part of its social amelioration program that aims to benefit 18 million poor Filipino families.
However, Governor Remulla said COVID-19 knows no social class.
“It is a time of crisis for everyone. Not just the poorest of the poor, but also those who have built much but not enough,” he said.
“They wait for the LGUs (local government units) to give them relief goods, but those come few and far in between. They scrimp and pawn and borrow. They are barely surviving,” he added.
Last week, President Duterte agreed with Remulla about the middle class receiving help from the government but said funds are not enough.
“The point raised by Governor Remulla of Cavite, I think, is valid. We’ll try to remedy whatever kung may mapulot pa tayo sa daan (if we find something down the road),” he said.
“Itong namang ‘yung tawag natin na sa middle income, eh ‘yung kanila nakaupa lang ng bahay na medyo maganda sa subdivision then may kaunting pera sila para de-deposito nila (Our middle income earners are the ones who are renting a more beautiful house in a subdivision and have some money saved) for the rainy days. Now what is really very sad is that the rain has arrived,” he added.