Beyond ECQ ‘ayuda’, fortify citizens’ COVID protection

Published August 11, 2021, 12:02 AM

by Manila Bulletin

Government’s social safety nets will be cast in Metro Manila starting today, August 11,  to cushion the impact of the most restrictive Enhanced Community Quarantine that is in force from August 6 to 20.  Individuals will receive cash assistance of P1,000 each while families are entitled to a maximum of P4,000. 

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said it has downloaded some P10.894 billion to 17 local government units (LGUs) in the National Capital Region (NCR).  The LGUs are tasked with informing the intended beneficiaries of the distribution points, as well as the schedule for claiming the assistance.  The Department of Social Work and Development (DSWD) and the Department of the Interior and Local Governments (DILG) are jointly responsible for “case supervision and monitoring.”

‘In the lexicon of the COVID era,  ayuda’ is the term used to denote such help or assistance to the most needy families.  Truly, they require support — especially if their breadwinners are among the thousands displaced from jobs as businesses were shuttered by the pandemic.

Some LGUs have announced that they would also distribute food packs to augment the ECQ ‘ayuda’. Civic and church-based organizations have also initiated feeding programs — riding on the crest of the community pantry movement that began last April.

In December 2019, the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) reported that a monthly budget of P7,528 was sufficient to feed a family of five on a typical no-frills menu consisting of boiled mongo (mung beans), malunggay (moringa), dried dilis (anchovies), banana and boiled rice.  This translates to a food budget of P250 per day or P50 per person.  If multiplied by 14 days — the ECQ duration — this means that P700 of the P1,000 ayuda per person is already set aside for food, leaving only P300 for other essential expenses like water, electricity, rent, transportation and clothing.

Average inflation in December 2019 — or just before the onset of the COVID pandemic —was 2.5 percent.  Last week, the PSA reported that the headline inflation rate decreased from 4.1 percent in June to 4.0 percent in July, even as year-to-date inflation remained at 4.4 percent.  This simply shows that the lean pre-COVID food budget has been rendered even leaner by inflation.

Overall food inflation slightly increased from 4.9 percent in June to 5.1 percent in July. In particular, fish inflation accelerated from 8.7 percent to 9.3 percent due to Typhoon Fabian which affected regional port operations. Vegetable inflation also turned positive from -2.7 percent to 5 percent due to the flooding caused by the heavy south monsoon rains.  Meanwhile, non-food inflation slowed down from 3.4 percent in June to 3.2 percent in July.

Beyond extending cash ‘ayuda’ it is expected that the government will ramp up vaccination and improve COVID containment measures as the deadly Delta variant continues to challenge the capacity of the public health system to arrest its spread — and a new Lambda variant looms in the horizon.