House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) has asked President Duterte and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to broaden the coverage of the government’s Covid-19 emergency subsidy program and give barangay officials, including secretaries, treasurers and tanods, a “frontline status” so they may also be eligible for benefits.
Salceda also urged the IATF to ensure that all low-income families are equitably provided financial support, citing reports of “multiple government lists” with members of the same families included in the different lists that results to duplication.
“When one family gets more than what it has to get, another family gets less or none. It potentially deprives the underserved and unlisted informal sector. In a larger perspective, that compromises our quarantine efforts. Those who get no help will likely go out to find ways to survive. They can become vectors of the virus,” he noted.
As one of the proponents in Congress of the P200 billion additional budget for the families affected by the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) subsidy in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, Salceda, also thanked the IATF for adopting one of his recommendations – the inclusion of lactating mothers, pregnant women and tricycle drivers in the subsidy plan.
In a letter to the President, Salceda proposed that barangay officials and workers, including barangay chairmen, secretaries, treasurers and tanods, to be given “frontliner status” and make eligible for frontliner benefits, since “the challenge is to keep everyone on the boat during this crisis.” He said the “emerging reality is that barangay officials and workers including tanods are performing frontline work, and it appears they will perform more of that during the subsidy distribution. They are the ones tending to the boat at what could be the most important level of the ECQ – the community.”
“Some of our ideas were already adopted, so I thank President Duterte for that. In fact, some officials I have talked to said lactating mothers, pregnant women and tricycle have been included in the subsidy plan. Hopefully, barangay officials will also be included, for forced preservation purposes. If they get sick, there will be no ECQ implementers at the community level,” he pointed out.
In his letter to the President, Salceda said the following sectors should be rightfully considered for coverage under a unitized ESP (8,000 each): 1) “No work, no-pay” wage earners; 2) Transport sector workers, including drivers of tricycles, jeepneys, passenger buses, passenger UV express, taxis, and transport network vehicles (TNVs); 3) Seasonal workers in the Informal sector; 4) Market vendors and owners of small businesses; 5) Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) displaced by the pandemic; 6) Employees of manufacturers, processors, transporters, and distributors of essential goods; 7) Workers in the “gig” economy, or those workers who do not permanently work for a single employer but instead work for themselves on a job-by-job or client-by-client basis; 8) Frontline barangay officials and workers including Barangay Chairmen, Kagawads, Secretaries, Treasurers, Tanods, and Barangay Health Workers (BHW); 9) Frontline LGU employees whose deployment is directly related to containing the health emergency or supporting the continuity of essential public services during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ); 10) Indigent senior citizens; 11) Beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) including farmers, farmworkers, and fisherfolks; l2) Unconditional Cash Transfer program beneficiaries; 13) Domestic helpers and similar wage earners not covered by formal employment arrangements; 14) Providers of essential goods and services, such as water, energy, food and hygiene products, security services, financial services, and transport and delivery services’ and 15) Eco-aides and other community and local workers in waste disposal and frontline ecological management services.
“Definitely, we should guarantee informal sector coverage. They, especially tricycle drivers, have earned practically nothing in recent weeks,” he said.
Salceda has also suggested that the President recognize and optimize the enhanced role of the Department of Labor and Employment and its capability to deliver services to a mass segment of the population. “Right now, DOLE serves minimum wage earners through the Covid Adjustment Measures Program, OWWA’s US$200 for displaced OFWs, and TUPAD for the informal sector.
“Their capabilities can be expanded further. In my assessment, they appear effective despite their limited resources,” he added.
Salceda has likewise proposed an alternative “basic income” scheme. He explained that in the US, “what they did was not to segment the people into households, but just give every adult US$1200 and every child US$500. This may be because poorer families have more members, hence, more mouths to feed.”
The House Ways and Means Committee has been providing the executive branch with formal policy recommendations on COVID-19 response since January. Salceda then recommended the creation of a center for disease control and the enactment of enhanced disease surveillance strategies and powers. He led calls for a week-long lockdown of the National Capital Region as soon as the first case of community transmission was found in San Juan.
He noted that the President “has been receptive to many of our ideas, and I thank him for that. I assure the public that we will continue to inform the government with our analysis. I have a small group of outbreak scientists and data engineers working with me on analyses we provide our leaders,” he added.