The Philippine government has placed the Greater Manila area under lockdown in a bid to stop the skyrocketing cases of COVID-19.
From March 29 to April 4, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite were placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) again.
President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged that Filipinos need assistance in the newest lockdown episode. Under the latest programs, workers and low-income Filipinos should be able to access aid from the government.
Here’s what we know so far:
Who are covered?
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado on Monday, March 29, said that low-income Filipinos were set to receive a “supplemental” aid. Avisado said that it would cover 80% of the low-income population in the bubble:
- Metro Manila – 11.2 million individuals
- Bulacan – 3 million individuals
- Rizal – 2.6 million individuals
- Laguna – 2.7 million individuals
- Cavite – 3.4 million individuals
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday, March 30, said that the release order and notice of allocation had been issued to the Bureau of Treasury, the agency on top of releasing the funds to the local government units (LGUs).
DBM said that those who received cash aid in 2020 would be prioritized.
Only a total of P22.9 billion in leftover funds from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act will be used to fund the supplemental aid program.
The P4.5-trillion 2021 budget did not have an allocation for an unconditional cash grant. Under the premise that the economy would recover, the Philippine government did not anticipate that such grants would be needed this year.
Unlike in 2020, eligible Filipinos will get a measly P1,000 worth of cash or goods each, while families can receive a maximum of P4,000 – or only up to four individuals receiving the P1,000 each. In 2020, low-income families received P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the prevailing minimum wage in the area.
According to the DBM Local Budget Circular 136, the LGUs will determine whether the assistance to be given would be in cash or in kind. It prohibits LGUs from using the funds for other programs, projects, activities, and expenses.
The document below lists how much cities and municipalities will get from the national government:
Where can Filipinos get the aid?
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that local governments would distribute the aid.
The flexibility in the form of aid supposedly would help LGUs decide whatever distribution method would be faster.
In the case of San Juan City, the city government decided it would be best if they provided the aid in kind.
According to the DBM circular, the LGU should post the complete list of beneficiaries in areas visible to the public. The list should also be submitted to the DBM and the Commission on Audit, among others.
In 2020, the national government tasked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the distribution. The move backfired as the distribution encountered several delays. This time, the DSWD will only “assist” the LGUs.
What happens if the lockdown is extended?
Whether the lockdown in the so-called “NCR Plus” bubble would be extended or if the area would be placed under modified ECQ is still up for debate, to be tackled by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Black Saturday, April 3.
Regardless of an extension, there will be no additional cash assistance.
“This is only a one-time assistance,” Avisado told Rappler.
What about workers?
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is reviving its COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP), which will give displaced workers P5,000.
As for the target number of beneficiaries, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said he was still waiting for the reports of the DOLE regional offices.
Similar to what DOLE implemented before, employers would be applying for the cash aid on behalf of their employees.
DOLE will also implement its emergency employment program Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced (TUPAD) Workers Program. This would provide temporary jobs to informal sector workers as contact tracers for a period of 10 to 30 days.
Bello said the LGUs would handle the training for the workers and determine the number of people to be employed in their locality.
Under the 2021 budget, TUPAD has some P19.04 billion in appropriation. – with a report from Dwight de Leon/Rappler.com