Social support key to Philippines' coronavirus lockdown success: economist

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2020 01:14 PM

Residents of Barangay Batis in San Juan City wait for the distribution of goods on March 23, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Philippines needs to provide social support for the most vulnerable sectors to ensure the success of a lockdown aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, an economist said Tuesday.

Access to food and the ability to buy food can keep people indoors, University of the Philippines School of Economics assistant professor Cielo Magno told ANC.

Luzon, home to half of the country's 100 million people, is on lockdown until April 12. Economists have called on the government to provide aid to the poor, who lost their livelihoods due to transport restrictions.

"We want people to practice social distancing and to make sure that the quarantine works and then we stop the spread of the virus. Right now what we need is social protection," Magno said.

"We have to make sure that people will have social support and economic support to stay at home because if we're not going to provide the basic needs of individuals, not just access to food but being able to buy food, then they're going to keep going out," she added.

Conditional cash transfers should be augmented to about P8,000 to meet the monthly basic needs, Magno said. The government then would need some P300 billion for 18 million individuals if the lockdown extends to 2 months, she said.

Fiscal stimulus will step in once the pandemic is contained to help the economy quickly recover, she said. 

The government should also draft a clear plan on how and when funds will be disbursed, Magno said.