Amid the ongoing enhanced community quarantine imposed in Luzon to contain the further spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go appealed to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), other concerned agencies and local government units (LGUs) to implement the services directed to provide additional support for senior citizens.
The Senator cited government data indicating that majority of COVID-19 fatalities are elderly. Because of their weak and compromised immune systems, they are more prone to respiratory infections.
Go, whose priorities include the welfare of one of the most vulnerable sectors in the society, would like the DSWD to implement social welfare and social protection programs and services by prioritizing the provision of the Social Pension for indigent senior citizens, as well as providing Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), distribution of Food and Non-Food Items, and Sustainable Livelihood Programs to vulnerable sectors most affected by the enhanced community quarantine. This is in addition to the sustained provision of food assistance and non-food essentials to the most affected families and individuals.
“Gusto natin na mabigyan ang lahat ng mga Pilipinong apektado ng COVID-19 ng kaukulang atensyon at suporta. Prayoridad dapat rito ang mga senior citizens na alam nating medyo mahina na at siyempre, nahihirapan na silang gumalaw at maghanap ng pagkain,” Go said.
“Aminin natin na mahirap para sa kanila ang makakuha ng resources, lalo na sa panahon ngayon na quarantine, bawal ang lumabas nang basta-basta. At sila pa ang isa sa mga taong mabilis mahawaan ng sakit na ito (COVID-19),” the Senator added.
Go reiterated the government advisory released on Wednesday that those who are most vulnerable, particularly seniors (60 years old and above), those with pre-existing medical condition, like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, COPD, cancer and others, as well as pregnant women should not go out of their homes.
The monthly Social Pension amounts to P500 per indigent senior citizen to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs. Considered as indigent senior citizens are those who are frail, sickly or with disability and without pension or permanent source of income of regular support from their relatives to meet their basic needs.
The AICS is an integrated services program of DSWD to individuals and families in crises or difficult situations. This program should be used to provide financial assistance to affected families. FNI includes distribution of food packs and non-food essentials, such as toiletries.
Meanwhile, the SLP is a capability-building program for the poor, vulnerable and marginalized households and communities. It is intended to help improve their socio-economic condition through livelihood assistance. Through the SLP, Livelihood Assistance Grants may be distributed to recipients after the quarantine period as a way to cope with economic losses of affected families.
Go also identified some of the other vulnerable sectors that should also be prioritized in the provision of necessary assistance to affected Filipinos such as solo parents, indigent indigenous peoples, Transportation Network Vehicle Service (TNVS) and Transport Network Companies (TNC) drivers, and informal economy workers.
In order to avoid difficulties in the distribution of the relief assistance, given the travel restrictions imposed in Luzon and other areas in the country, Go is calling for door-to-door delivery of government aid, including the social pension for the indigent senior citizens. DSWD should be assisted by LGUs since the latter have the necessary database, according to the Senator.
In previous statements, Go has emphasized the need to give more focus to the senior citizens in the country.
Go also called on the government to also strengthen the implementation of Republic Act No. 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010.” Aside from the usual benefits of the senior citizens, indigent senior citizens are also “entitled to a monthly stipend amounting to P500 to augment the daily subsistence and other medical needs, in consultation with the DSWD.”
In addition, senior citizens are also entitled to free medical and dental services and diagnostic and laboratory tests. The law also provides that “the Department of Health shall also administer free vaccination against the influenza virus and pneumococcal disease for indigent senior citizen patients.”
Senior citizens can also benefit from special discounts on basic commodities. It is subject to the guidelines set by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Agriculture.
“Now more than ever, we should do everything we can to be of service to the Filipino people. The government as a whole should still do its job in a manner that will not put the health of others at risk. Hindi pwedeng ipagpaliban ang tulong sa kapwa Pilipino, tuloy-tuloy dapat ang serbisyo,” Go added.
For her part, Senator Nancy Binay expressed her disappointment over the slow response of the National Food Authority (NFA) in addressing the distribution of rice to disadvantaged families and communities.
“Anong oras na? Dapat ipamigay na ng NFA ang mga bigas sa tao. Importanteng maitawid muna natin kahit 14 days lang ang mga pamilyang direktang naapektuhan ng lockdown. Hindi ito bakasyon–giyera ito,” Binay said.
According to the senator, the NFA has in its warehouses enough supply of rice to distribute rice assistance to the most affected residents during the expanded community quarantine.
“Kailangan pa ba nating hintayin na magkagulo at may mamatay sa gutom? Ano ba ang plano? Sana kumilos na para matulungan lahat ng nangangailangan,” Binay said.
The NFA has a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with relief agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Office of Civil Defense and local government units for the supply of their rice requirements for relief operations during natural disasters, calamities and other emergencies./Stacy Ang