Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go on Wednesday has urged concerned national government agencies to assure the public that qualified beneficiaries, from the poor to the middle class, will receive financial and assistance through the various programs of the government, during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or “lockdown.”
Go, also Senate Health Committee chair and member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee that monitors the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, said that the government must do its best to ensure that various programs are immediately implemented to benefit the affected sectors of society.
While the country continues its fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Go said the President is in close contact with his finance managers to discuss the next steps the government should take to ensure that those most affected by the crisis, including the middle class and small businesses, get the assistance they need to survive
Starting from the poorest of the poor, he said around eighteen million Filipino family-beneficiaries are receiving assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for two months under the Social Amelioration Program.
He also said DOLE has an existing COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program for affected workers in the formal sector. It consists of a one-time P5,000 cash assistance and employment facilitation services.
For affected workers in the informal sector, DOLE is extending them temporary employment through its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Barangay Ko, Bahay Ko Disinfection/Sanitation Project or the TUPAD #BKBK program.
After DOLE, he said the Department of Finance at Social Security System would be the ones to give assistance. He said everything is being scrutinized to avoid duplication.
“Ito naman yung sa mga MSMEs natin para naman maitawid rin sila… Ang importante ‘yung tiyan ng bawat Pilipino, wala magugutom dapat,” he added.
The DOF is preparing a list of qualified beneficiaries through the Bureau of Internal Revenue for its subsidy program for employees of MSMEs that are totally or partially closed due to the crisis.
They will be paid directly through various modes, including through SSS Unified Multi-Purpose Identification Card enrolled as ATM, bank account, e-wallet or cash pick-up. Amount of assistance may range from P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the regional wage rates.
Based on data from DOF, there are around 1.6 million businesses in the country’s formal sector. Some 436,300 of them were forced to stop operations. Affected workers are estimated at 3.4 million nationwide.
Meanwhile, Go also thanked the private companies which have extended help to boost the country’s efforts in the fight against the virus.
With gaps still needing to be filled up, Go then reiterated his appeal to the private sector, particularly big businesses, to help augment the assistance to the middle class by taking care of their respective employees and communities.
“This assistance prioritizes those at the bottom, the poorest, most vulnerable and the displaced. It trickles up as the government prepares assistance to SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) as well,” the Senator said.
“It is thus my hope that those on top — the rich and the big businesses — will continue to meet us halfway by keeping on augmenting the aid coming from government as well as by taking care of their communities and employees,” he further said.
Meanwhile, Senator Win Gatchalian said the government needs to come up with a solution to ease the burden of Filipino households, whose electricity bills are expected to pile up after a month of reprieve especially that the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) has been extended.
He expressed his concern that ordinary Filipinos, especially those belonging to the marginalized sector, might not have the financial capacity to pay their two month-worth of electricity bills in full and therefore risk having their electricity disconnected.
The Senate Committee on Energy Chairman prodded the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to look for solutions that will ease payment terms of consumers. He suggested to stagger the two months of electricity bills for not less than three months.
He also appealed to Meralco to temporarily waive its convenience fee so that consumers may be able to pay their electricity bill using the company’s mobile app without extra charges. According to Meralco, consumers who pay via the said app will have to pay an additional P47 convenience fee.
“For humanitarian reasons, let’s think of ways that will make the lives of our kababayans better and alleviate their suffering as we face this pandemic,” he said./Stacy Ang