A first since pandemic lockdown: Workers to march the streets for Labor Day 2021

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 29 2021 07:07 PM | Updated as of Apr 29 2021 07:40 PM

A first since pandemic lockdown: Workers to march the streets for Labor Day 2021 1
Labor rights advocates hold a protest at the Department of Labor and Employment in Intramuros, Manila on April 27, 2021. The group condemned the alleged repression and red-tagging of trade unionists and called for the defunding of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and instead reassign the agency’s funds as cash aid to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News.

MANILA — Hundreds of laborers and members of left-leaning groups are expected to march the streets to commemorate the day of workers on Saturday, a first since the imposition of quarantine protocols last year. 

Workers' groups will conduct a protest at Liwasang Bonifacio to highlight the need for government aid and immediate response to arrest the rise of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases in the country. 

Kilusang Mayo Uno Chairperson Bong Labog told ABS-CBN News that around 5,000 participants from the metro and other provinces are expected to join the protests. 

He noted that marshals will be assigned to ensure that participants wil follow health protocols and physical distancing. 

“Maghihigpit kami and mag-aassign kami ng mga marshal para parating nagbabantay at nagre-require ‘yung social distancing. Upang matiyak ‘yung health safety ng participants mismo, ire-require natin ang lahat na i-follow ang health protocols tulad ng [pagsuot] ng facemask at face shield at pagbabaon ng mga alcohol,” Labog told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.

(We will tighten and assign marshals to constantly monitor and require ‘social distancing’. To ensure the health safety of the participants themselves, we will require everyone to follow health protocols such as [wearing] of facemask and face shield and bringing of alcohol.

“Although, magkakaroon kami ng protest, ipapatupad namin ‘yun health protocols. ‘Yun na ‘yung mayorya na nasa Liwasang [Bonifacio] and then the rest is sa iba’t ibang area muna,” he added.

(Although, we will have a protest, we will implement health protocols. That’s the majority in Liwasang [Bonifacio] and then the rest will be scattered in different areas.)

Labog said that they will cap the event will last for only an hour and they will negotiate with authorities should police aim for a dispersal. 

“Makikusap kami sa kanila na bigyan kami ng pagkakataon na makapag-address sa crowd and at a certain time among our organizations the soonest time na mailahad naman namin ‘yung mga kahilingan namin ay nais na naming matapos agad, maximum of one hour,” he said. 

(We will ask them to give us the opportunity to address the crowd and at a certain time among our organizations the soonest time we can express our requests that we want to finish immediately, maximum of one hour.)

LACK OF AID

The workers’ group chairperson said that many workers had lost jobs and the lack of aid has been an issue since the pandemic started. 

“Mahalagang mapakinggan na malaki ‘yung pangangailangan sa ayuda kaya ‘yun ‘yung sa aming kahilingan sa darating na Mayo Uno. Malaki ‘yung bilang ng walang hanapbuhay … ito’y mahalagang usapin na dapat mailahad sa publiko.”

(It is important to hear that there is a great need for aid, so that is our request for the coming May 1. So many people lost their jobs - this is an important issue that must be brought to the public.)

Unemployment worsened in February 2021 compared to the previous month as the Philippines continues to grapple with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, based on government data.

The Philippine Statistics Authority earlier said that the unemployment rate rose to 8.8 percent in February from 8.7 percent in January, which translates to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos.

Meanwhile, BAYAN secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. echoed Labog noting that the lack of action from the national government have pushed them to bring their action back to the streets.

“The significance of the [physical] protest pertains to the severity of the crisis. If this was not this bad, if the economic situation was not this severe, maybe there would be other forms of protests but considering the state of [the country] like the lack of response, the growing number of people lining up everyday [at community pantries], the lack of government aid all these are factors which are considered of the holding of a physical protest,” Reyes told ABS-CBN News in an interview. 

“The issue of economic aid should be addressed by the president. It has not been taken out in the previous cabinet meetings or talk to the people. The president has not spoken nor given a clear commitment on the granting of economic aid,” he added. 

Community pantries have sprouted across the country after Ana Patricia Non started the movement in Maginhawa in Quezon City.

Non started the initiative over a week ago to offer free food to people in need, as government aid had not been sufficient to feed many people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. 

After getting support from other officials for her “Bayanihan” initiative, Non resumed her pantry, which has already been replicated in many parts of the country.

Reyes said that the pandemic response should be reoriented and not just be restricted to the livelihood of the Filipino people. 

“‘Yung COVID response natin (Our COVID response) has to be drastically reoriented. Our COVID response has tampered on restricting the movement of people, restricting the livelihood of people,” he said. 

“How can you fight COVID when the most basic tool which is testing is not being ramped up, umaasa lang talaga ang national government na i-lockdown ang mga tao hoping that infections will go down but what happened when you reopened the economy, infections may rise again, there will be an outbreak again, we will end up with the same problem umuulit lang tayo if we are going to stick to the same plan mauulit lang ‘yung mga problema and it will take a fall to the livelihood of the people,” he added.

(How can you fight COVID when the most basic tool which is testing is not being ramped up, the national government is really just hoping to lock down people hoping that infections will go down but what happened when you reopened the economy, infections may rise again, there will be an outbreak again, we will end up with the same problems if we are going to stick to the same plan.)

The Philippines on Thursday reported 8,276 new COVID-19 cases, as the capital region and 4 nearby provinces remain under stricter lockdown levels until mid-May. 

Out of 49,003 individuals who underwent testing for COVID-19 on April 27, some 16.9 percent were found positive. 

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