Senator Cynthia Villar expressed concern that the ongoing ECQ in various parts of the country, which has been extended until May 15, is already taking its toll in the employment situation of the poor in the country. And more realistic and sustainable measures should be put in place.
Villar recommended the opening of the labor intensive sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction for the poor and lower middle class.
The agriculture sector is in full swing but some allied industries have limited operations or have ceased operations already. This has displaced food manufacturing workers and limited the supply of food in the market. “With the extension of the ECQ for another half a month, we need to intensify food production as well as ensured the unimpeded flow of fresh produce and food products all over the country,” said Villar.
As widely reported in media, those employed in the construction and manufacturing sectors are adversely affected. With work stoppage due to the lockdown, many of them are not only stranded in their workplaces but without any income as well.
“As we all know, workers in construction and manufacturing are daily wage earners who are compensated on a “no work, no pay” basis. They have no source of income while on ECQ. While the government and companies may have extended financial assistance and relief goods, those will not be enough,” said Villar.
She cited that people are going hungry already and if it were not addressed immediately, people may commit crimes to raise food money. Villar said, “Many are willing to risk their lives and get infected with coronavirus, just to provide food for their family. They can be heard saying that on TV and in social media.”
Agriculture comprises 22% of workers in the country, 10% are in manufacturing and 10% are in construction. Construction workers number 3.9 million in 2018 and almost the same number in manufacturing. Villar cited ECQ should not only be dependent on areas but in industry types or sectors also.
“We should remember that 70% of the gross domestic product of the Philippines is in NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon. And if we do not practice partial lockdown in these areas, we lose 70% of our gross domestic products,” the senator added.
She cited that while there may be health risks, workers who will be allowed to work will of course still have to follow government-implemented health and safety protocols such as social distancing and wearing of face masks. The employers can also make sure that they comply with those. They can even provide shuttle services to their employees.
According to Villar, it is also good timing that it is summer in the country already and studies have confirmed that coronavirus dies more quickly in hot and humid weather. There are experiments carried out by the US National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center, showed that Covid-19 cannot survive on high temperatures and humidity. Ultraviolet rays can kill the virus both on surfaces and in air. The Philippines has temperature of 35C.
“Agricultural and construction workers work outdoors in open spaces and are exposed to sunlight, so the risks of them getting infected are much lower, as long as the people practice personal protection measures,” said Villar./Stacy Ang