By Mario B. Casayuran
Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara on Friday asked the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) to grant certain exceptions to senior citizens, who have been stuck in their homes during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and could remain holed up for an extended period once the lockdown is lifted and the “new normal” kicks in.
Angara was reacting to IATF guidelines on a general community quarantine (GCQ) provision which allows certain businesses to resume operations but requires individuals below 21 and those 60 years and above to stay at home.
He revealed that he has already received lots of complaints from irate seniors after learning about the GCQ guidelines, particularly those who still work or are still productive members of society.
“Many seniors are also living alone or separate from their families, so prohibiting them from going out of their homes to buy essential goods such as food and medicines will lead to a lot of problems on their part,” Angara said.
“We understand that older adults have a higher risk of contracting severe diseases due to COVID-19 and we should ensure they are given the proper care and protection. But we should also address their basic needs during this critical period. Let us strike a balance between these two concerns,” he added.
Angara – whose father, the late former Senate President Edgardo Angara was the author of Republic Act 7432 or the Senior Citizen’s Act of 1992 – emphasized the obligation of the state to care for its elderly.
The landmark statute, which granted benefits and privileges to senior citizens, was further expanded with the passage RA 9994 in 2010, of which the younger Angara was among the authors.
Even under the ECQ or GCQ, Angara said the basic needs of the seniors do not change and they will still have to procure essential items one way or another.
Angara suggested a number of options that the authorities may consider for seniors such as the implementation of special hours and priority services at establishments such as groceries and drug stores.
Businesses should also allow online transactions using senior citizen cards for discounts to essential goods
“Dapat i-relax ang rules sa mga online transactions ng seniors. Pwede na pagbigyan ang paggamit ng photo o screen shot ng senior ID. Gusto natin na manatili sila sa bahay kaya gawan na natin ng paraan na hindi na sila kailangan lumabas pa para bumili ng pagkain o gamot,” Angara said. (Online transactions for senior citizens should be relaxed. The use of photo or screen shots of the identification cards of senior citizens should be allowed. We should come up with innovative measures that would not allow them to leave their homes to buy medicines or food.)
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez has clarified that senior citizens who are working as employees, executives, or business owners will be allowed to go to work under GCQ.
Angara urged the IATF to fast track the issuance of the operating guidelines for this so that everyone, including our working seniors, will be able to resume their normal lives once the lockdown is lifted.
“The Philippines is not an ageing society so the risks are not as high as other countries with a greater percentage of their population aged 65 or above. Of course, the risks are still there for the immunocompromised or those with a weakened immune system, which is why we should find a balance between the needs of the seniors and their vulnerability to disease,” he added.