President Rodrigo Duterte | Malacañang photo by Ace Morandante

P200 billion will be allocated to low-income households affected by the enhanced community quarantine enforced in Luzon, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte announced on Monday, March 30.

The quarantine was implemented in mid-March to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the country, but has left a dent in the livelihoods of thousands of Filipino families.

“We have allotted P200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis. Sila ang nasa informal sector (They are the ones in the informal sector) and those who live day to day on subsistence wages or no work no pay,” Duterte said in his televised public address late Monday night, hours past the 4 p.m. tentative schedule his spokesperson announced in the afternoon.

This is “the largest and widest social protection program” in the Philippines’ history, the president said.

“Arrangements, beneficiary households will receive emergency support for their two months based on the regional minimum wage,” he explained.

The president also urged the private sector to extend its help for the poor during the crisis.

“To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking care of the less fortunate and keeping our society intact. They have also contributed to our prosperity in one way or the other, so let us support them in this crisis. Let it be said that in the hour of our country’s greatest need, we all look out for and help each other,” he said.

Outside of Luzon, local government units in Visayas and Mindanao are distributing food packs and other essential non-food items. Farmers and fisherfolk were assured that assistance is coming as well as ensuring “food productivity, availability and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic.”

“The government will provide a recovery package, especially to SMEs to help deal with the economic effects of this pandemic. My economic deal is already creating the guidelines for this as I speak,” Duterte said.

Front-liners ‘lucky’ to die for the country

Duterte, in his public address, expressed his gratitude towards the country’s front liners, addressing the healthcare workers that succumbed to COVID-19.

“May mga doktor na, mga nurses, attendants, namatay. Sila ‘yung nasawi ang buhay para lang makatulong sa kapwa. Napakaswerte nila. Namatay sila para sa bayan. Iyon ang dapat ang rason na bakit tayo mamatay (There are doctors, nurses, attendants who have died. They are the ones who passed away helping others. They are so lucky. They died for the country. That should be the reason why we die),” he said.

“It would be an honor to die for your country, I assure you,” the president added.
Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act on March 24, granting him special powers to address the COVID-19 threat in the country.

Under the law, he is required every Monday to submit a weekly report to Congress detailing what the government has done in the past week to fight the pandemic.
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III said he received Duterte’s report 12:40 a.m. of Tuesday, past the set day of submission.

“Let’s cut them some slack. It’s just started,” he said.

Sotto has yet to reveal the contents of Duterte’s report, as of press time.

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