The Philippines, like any other nation grappling with the deadly spread of COVID-19, is scrambling to deliver a form of assistance to a great number of population reeling from the outbreak.
Local government units are sending packages to some of their residents to alleviate their conditions amid the Luzon-wide lockdown. But sad to say, the relief goods are scanty to address the needs of a big population.
Delivering the goods and the money quickly to residents, especially those who do not have the wherewithal to buy their daily meals, is the logistical challenge faced by the government, the private sector and charitable institutions. Failure to answer immediately the basic requirements of the population will lead to social unrest and a serious peace and order problem.
President Rodrigo Duterte, in a recent address to the nation, assured the government would extend financial assistance, especially to the marginal and vulnerable groups. It committed to provide subsidies to low-income households, implement an expanded and enhanced Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program to respond to the needs affected by the community quarantine, and ensure availability of credit to productive sectors.
How exactly these will be delivered to the jobless jeepney and tricycle drivers and the millions of workers who are paid by the day, however, is a gargantuan task. Desperate times call for creative and practical measures.
The government, perhaps, can look at what major business groups plan to do. They have raised over P1.5 billion to fund the distribution of grocery vouchers to 1 million urban poor families in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 crisis. They aim to distribute P1,000 gift certificates to more than 1 million households in the poor communities of the Greater Manila Area.
Through conduits, the groups in compliance with social distancing guidelines will deliver door-to-door gift certificates that are redeemable for food items from accessible groceries and supermarkets.
The state and local government units must also devise creative ways to bring relief to the majority of the population. Authorities must respond to the real needs of the population to remain relevant in these trying times. They should start with the poorest of the poor.