Philippines allots P275 billion to aid LGUs during COVID-19 outbreak, prioritizes poor

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 25 2020 01:42 PM

Volunteers distribute goods in Barangay Batis, San Juan City on March 23, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) said Wednesday it would allocate P275 billion to help local government units (LGUs) provide aid to poor families amid the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and lockdowns in cities and provinces in other parts of the country, as it appealed for public understanding over relief efforts.

The amount will be made available following President Rodrigo Duterte’s signing of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which grants his administration more powers to respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19 pandemic), DILG Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said.

“We will make available some P275 billion to augment ang sinasabing kakulangan ng ating mga LGU dahil nga 'yung kanilang quick response fund ay paubos na,” he said in a televised press briefing.

(We will make available some P275 billion to augment the shortage in LGUs because their quick response funds are already depleted.)

Duterte earlier placed the entire Philippines under a state of calamity to give LGUs enough leeway to tap into their emergency funds to respond to the pandemic. 

The enhanced community quarantine in Luzon, meanwhile, placed more than 50 million people under lockdown, while other cities and provinces across the country have also enforced restrictions to contain the outbreak. 

Poor families, Malaya said, can be assured of government’s help as he appealed to middle-class Filipinos for understanding.

“Hindi po tayo mayamang bansa, limitado lang po ang pondo ng pamahalaan. Ang inuuna po ng gobyerno ay 'yung mga isang kayod isang tuka, 'yung mga arawan, 'yung mga nasa toda, 'yung mga nagtatrabaho sa palengke na di makapasok, 'yun po ang inuuna namin,” he said.

(We are not a rich country, our government has limited funds. We are prioritizing the poorest of the poor, those who earn wages daily, those in tricycle organizations, those working in public markets who can't go to work.)

The lockdown had suspended public transport and work in both public and private sectors, except for those engaged in frontline and basic services, leaving daily wage earners out of jobs for the month. 

“Sana po maintindihan natin na sa kalamidad na ito lahat po tayo magtulungan, ngunit ang prayoridad po ng gobyerno ay 'yung mahihirap at sila po ang tutulungan natin,” he said.

(I appeal for understanding during this calamity but the government’s priority is the poor.)

Filipinos who don’t need relief goods from the government should no longer complain, Malaya said, as he revealed complaints received by the DILG on the matter.

“Let me just emphasize, 'yung iba naman po na maganda na ang buhay, huwag na po tayo mag-antay ng tulong sa gobyerno kasi maganda naman ang buhay niyo,” he said.

(Those who have a good life, don’t wait for help from the government anymore because your life is already good.)

Local government units have been distributing relief goods since the national government imposed a month-long lockdown to arrest the spread of the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), which has infected 552 people in the country as of Tuesday afternoon.

The lockdown meant strict home confinement in all households, suspension of transportation lines, regulation of provision for food and essential health services, and heightened presence of uniformed personnel to enforce isolation procedures.