Pena: Coping with ECQ

AS OF this writing, it was announced that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will be extended for two weeks more. In the four weeks that people were told to stay home, the daily wage earners and informal workers probably suffered the most. With no source of income, one may wonder how they are coping up with the ordeal.

I saw a few posts in social media showing people harvesting whatever they have in their backyard like fruits, vegetables and root crops. There are people fishing in rivers and collecting clams. Others are lucky to have native chickens, pigs and ducks. Some ate corn fungus or whatever they can find in their surroundings.

Incidentally since this Covid-19 crisis will not end soon, it’s best to plant now. It’s not too late. For this, I admire former Pampanga Governor Among Ed Panlilio who gave away seeds. My radio partner, Cecile Yumul whose backyard is teeming with fruit bearing trees and vegetables, got some of those seeds.

Many people are surviving on relief goods from the barangays and the city or municipality. However, some people are complaining that they have not been reached by relief distribution. Some LGUs have very little budgets so that they can only afford to distribute once. It’s good that private companies are also helping. Our company donated one thousand sacks of rice at 25-kilo per sack to Mabalacat City.

For sure there are people that are going hungry. I read the heartbreaking story about a man who attempted to commit suicide by jumping off the Abacan River bridge. He was saved just in time by policemen who responded to the scene. The man was allegedly frustrated for not being able to feed his family.

How about the middle class? Of the few times that I was out to buy supplies, I noticed that all the pawnshops I passed by are teeming with people. These are probably the people who have no savings and are trying to make both ends meet by pawning the few precious possessions they have.

As for the help coming from the national government, the Department of Labor and Employment rolled out a P1.3-billion financial assistance for 250,000 Filipino workers who lost their source of income due to the ECQ. Another P180-million emergency employment program under the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Displaced/Underprivileged Workers (TUPAD) was also offered to 16,000 informal sector workers. I hope the help reached them on time.

The big help comes from social amelioration measures under Republic Act 11469 or the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.” The amount of P5,000 to P8,000 for two months will be given to families belonging to vulnerable sectors affected by the ECQ. There are however confusions and complaints in the selection of beneficiaries.

I hope the social amelioration funds will really reach the needy. Even if the ECQ is lifted, it will take a while before things will go back to normal. I am hoping too that those who have been disqualified but are suffering will be reconsidered. There are SSS pensioners who are receiving a measly P2,000 to 3,000 a month yet they are not entitled to the initial list of beneficiaries.


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