Coronavirus fight must consider poor, marginalized: UP Manila students, profs


Posted at Mar 23 2020 10:55 AM

A man wearing a face mask, carrying food supplies, walks in Quezon City as a rainbow appears in the background. Mark Demayo, ABS CBN News/file

MANILA -- The Philippine government's response to the coronavirus pandemic should take into account the poor and the marginalized that have long been disadvantaged by the country's health system, health policy students and faculty at UP Manila said.

Current measures do not fully consider the urban poor, who cannot practice social distancing in their dense communities and daily wage earners who risk their lives to provide for their families, according to the University of the Philippines-Manila Master of Arts in Health Policy Studies (Health Social Sciences) Program.

"We call for evidence-based, health-driven policies to combat the pandemic," according to the statement.


The department suggested the following measures:

1. Priority allocation of emergency funds to the procurement of testing kits. 

2. Allocation of emergency funds to make treatment to COVID-19 accessible to the public.

3. Increased support for frontline health workers through increased salaries, from the barangay health worker to the nurses and doctors in hospitals. 

4. Mandatory paid sick leave and guaranteed basic income for all workers to incentivize workers to stay at home.

5. Stringent price freeze, suspend mortgages, utilities, and other household bills until people can go back to work.
6. Financial assistance for fishermen, farmers, sidewalk vendors, jeepney and tricycle drivers, wet market sellers and others who rely on daily income. 

7. Protection for Small and Medium-Enterprises (SMEs) through tax exemptions and rent moratorium among others. 

8. Mandatory creation of Barangay Emergency Response teams in partnership with local church organizations, transport cooperatives, labor unions, and other grassroots organizations.

Two students of the program, April Gomez and Christian Felix Antonio, initiated the drafting of the statement, together with the department chairperson, Laufred Hernandez and professors Reynaldo Imperial, Marilyn Crisostomo and Calvin de los Reyes.