Senator Imee Marcos has warned disorder and violence may erupt in Metro Manila if dwindling food supplies now felt in marginalized communities are not immediately addressed, due to the situation the country is now in battling the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) crisis.
Marcos called on the National Food Authority (NFA) to open its warehouses stocked with imported rice, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to donate container vans of smuggled frozen fish, and officials of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to release COVID-19 test kits and face masks for immediate distribution in Metro Manila.
“Do not prolong it! Let us prioritize Metro Manila. The stocks of rice from the NFA warehouses should be distributed. Let us not wait for our people to go hungry that can be the cause of chaos,” she said.
Marcos added that Metro Manila mayors with whom she consulted with are ready to designate storage areas for rice coming from the NFA.
Frozen fish from the BOC can be donated to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for quick distribution in the metropolis, Marcos added.
“Let us donate that Asap! If the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries want to help, they should manage the regulation in the importation of fish, the should be lenient to help our people,” Marcos said.
Daily wage earners, the self-employed, and rank-and-file workers whose incomes have been affected by government measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have lost the means to provide for their daily needs and must receive government aid immediately, Marcos explained.
Senator Win Gatchalian, on the other hand, urged both the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to fast-track the release of the last tranche of student subsidies for school year 2018-2019 under their respective programs: the Senior High School Voucher Program (SHS VP) and the Tertiary Education Subsidy (TES).
He said this would help families who are bearing the socio-economic impact of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Aside from bringing financial relief to affected families, he said the disbursement of these funds would help in the upkeep of private schools, including the advanced salaries and 13th month pay of teachers and other school personnel.
The SHS VP is a financial assistance program for disadvantaged but qualified learners to study in private schools, state and local universities and colleges (SUCs and LUCs), and technical and vocational institutions. For SY 2018-2019, vouchers amount between P14,000-P22,500, depending on the qualified recipient’s location.
The SHS VP has incurred a total deficit of P14.1 billion for fiscal year 2019, which covers fund requirements until the end of SY 2018-2019. This deficit will be charged to DepEd’s 2020 budget, which allocates P23.93 billion for the said program. The SHS VP currently supports more than 1.2 million learners.
The TES, one of the components of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act (Republic Act 10931) or the free tuition law, provides a maximum of P40,000 per student for education-related costs, including books, transportation, board and lodging, and other allowances.
For SY 2018-2019, TES has a P16 billion allocation for 300,000 students and more than P4.7 billion are paid to SUCs and LUCs as of December 31, 2018.
Gatchalian is co-author and co-sponsor of the free tuition law and has called for its improved implementation./Stacy Ang