Presidential spokesman Harry Roque on Tuesday, March 23, claimed that the government “can always find the money” to provide financial assistance to the poor, but that this is merely a “stop-gap” measure.
This came after the Palace was heavily criticized for refusing to call the new quarantine restrictions a lockdown allegedly because it doesn’t want to provide cash assistance to those who will be impacted by it.
“Government can always find the money pero ang usapin po, ayuda will never be enough. Hindi po iyan maging substitute dun sa pagtatrabaho ng ating mga mamamayan para makita nila o kitain ang pangangailangan nila. (Government can always find the money but cash assistance will never be enough. It is not a substitute for our people’s ability to earn for their needs). It is only a stop-gap measure,” Roque said in his virtual presser.
The spokesperson added that local government units (LGUs) have been providing cash assistance for areas that are subjected to granular lockdowns.
The government understands that workers need cash assistance if they will not be allowed to work.
“Kaya nga po binubuksan natin ang ekonomiya dahil ang ninanais natin ay hindi talaga pagtatanggap ng ayuda ang ating kababayan kundi magkaroon ng pagkakataon makapaghanapbuhay dahil karapatan po nila yan. (The reason why we are opening our economy is because we don’t want our people to depend on cash assistance, but they have the right to work),” Roque said.
The Palace official made the remark when asked what the government’s next step would be if the two-week general community quarantine fails to reduce the number of COVID-19 positive cases by 25 percent.
Roque explained said that the new general community quarantine that will last until April 4 is not a lockdown because businesses will remain open.
The spokesperson said the government is attempting “to minimize economic loss although we continue to be under GCQ.”
NEDA chief Karl Chua already has a computation of the cost of the GCQ on the country’s economy every day, but Roque insisted that the country will not incur more losses as it enters the first week of the new GCQ.
“The same cost we continue to incur pero hindi nga po natin hinigpitan so hindi madagdagan ang economic loss natin (but we are not restricting so, it will not add) from the current loss we are experiencing,” he said.
The last time the government provided cash assistance was in April last year amid the COVID-19 lockdown, though there were issues in the distribution of the cash aid under the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Social Amelioration Program (SAP).