‘Economy being reopened to reduce hunger among poor families,’ says Roque

The government is reopening the economy to decrease the numbers of Filipinos who are bearing the brunt of the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

In this photo taken on September 2, 2020, customers wearing face shields prepare to eat inside a mall in Manila. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed that a new record-high 7.6 million Filipino households have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

In his Monday presser, Roque claimed that the Palace is saddened about the result of the recent survey but said this only stresses the need to reopen the economy.

"Nakakalungkot itong balitang ito. Kaya nga tayo nagbubukas ng ekonomiya para mapababa yung mga numero, lalong-lalo na yung mga nagugutom (This news surely is saddening. This is why we are reopening the economy so we can lessen the numbers, especially those who are experiencing hunger)," he said.

According to Roque, the high rate of involuntary hunger in the country is probably caused by the community quarantine and other minimum health protocols.

He noted that under the general community quarantine (GCQ), only 50 percent of the economy is allowed to operate while this increased to 75 percent under the modified GCQ.

He also said that drivers, bus conductors, and other workers in the public transportation sector are one of the most affected because of the one-meter distancing requirement.

The Palace official appealed to the public to keep themselves healthy and observe minimum health standards so they can go to work despite the threat of COVID-19.

"Ang pakiusap natin pwede naman po magtrabaho habang nandiyan ang COVID-19 (We ask the people: We can work even though the COVID-19 pandemic still exists)," Roque said.

"Kinakailangan po nating pangalagaan ang ating kalusugan para tayo ay makapag-hanapbuhay (We need to take care of our health so we can work)," he added.

Gov't response

Meanwhile, Roque said that the government is not just sitting by while others are suffering due to the pandemic.

He noted that different government agencies like the departments of Social Welfare and Development (DWSD), Labor and Employment (DOLE), and Trade and Industry (DTI) have extended assistance and/or loans to qualified individuals.

He added that the Bayanihan to Recover as One (Bayanihan 2) Act and the proposed P4.5-trillion national budget also cover assistance for those affected by the health crisis.