Duterte directs Dominguez on steps to prevent rise in hunger

Published February 9, 2021, 2:55 PM

by Genalyn Kabiling

Concerned by the economic downturn, President Duterte is hopeful the country will recover from pandemic as soon as possible to prevent more people from going hungry.


The President made the statement after a recent “unscheduled meeting” with Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to discuss the economy, according to his spokesman Harry Roque.

“The President met with Secretary Dominguez to talk about economy so talagang nabababala ang Presidente na kinakailangan na makabangon sa lalong mabilis na panahon (The President is really worried. We must recover as soon as possible),” Roque said during a televised press briefing Tuesday, Feb. 9.

“Malinaw naman baka mas maraming nagututom at mamamatay sa gutom kaysa sa COVID (It is clear that more people might go hungry and die due to hunger, not COVID),” he said.

He said the President has repeatedly appealed for compliance with health protocols, including mask wearing and physical distancing, while the curbs on movement have been gradually relaxed. By seeking the safe reopening of the economy, he said the government wants to save more people from hunger due to the prolonged lockdown.

Roque said the President’s unscheduled meeting with Dominguez was held on a Sunday. He however could not recall the exact date.

In a televised address last Monday Feb. 1, the President admitted that the economy was “in bad shape” and the pandemic has cost the country P2 billion every day.

“We are sinking deeper and deeper pero hindi lang tayo. Lahat. (but it is not just us. It’s everyone) pero (but) we are trying our very best to keep us afloat,” Duterte said.

The domestic economy recorded its worst contraction at 9.5 percent in 2020 after the pandemic lockdown crippled businesses, weakened domestic consumption, and increased unemployment and hunger incidence. The government has already started to relax the movement curbs to revitalize business activity and livelihood of the people. 

As cases of coronavirus have surged to more than 500,000, the country remains largely under the relaxed modified general community quarantine for the month of February. 

Metro Manila, epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, remains under general community quarantine since August last year. Other areas under GCQ are Cordillera Administrative Region, Batangas, Tacloban City, Iligan City, Davao del Norte, Davao City, and Lanao del Sur.

The government hopes the upcoming vaccination program will help boost public health as well as confidence in the economy. Roque said people must continue to observe health measures even after getting vaccinated.