Today, the Filipino people are now facing an unprecedented human and health crisis due to the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19). As the global pandemic devastates the country, it also unveils the old problems in the Philippine economy as well as the incompetence of the national government in providing a comprehensive solution to fight the dreadful virus and to cushion its impact on the country’s population.
While the transition from the enhanced community quarantine to general community quarantine in the coming days offers economic relief among the working people, it fails to assuage the public fear of the looming rebound in transmission.
The approach of the national government to the crisis lacks urgency and has been proven to be very reactive. The Philippine government has paid little attention on how to make the country ready for a pandemic and it focused more on population control rather than giving stress to concrete medical solutions such as mass testing, contact tracing, isolation and treatment.
It is important to note that progressive and comprehensive strategies in fighting this crisis are very essential. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the cases in the Philippines will reach up to 75, 000. 5% will suffer from severe cases and 3% of them will die. This estimation is very alarming considering the country’s weak health care system. For decades, the public health system is miserably neglected as the country favors the privatization of basic social services.
On the other hand, the spread of COVID-19 and the lockdown have underscored the extent of poverty in the country. Since March, millions of poor and low-income Filipino families are suffering from hunger and malnutrition due to the lockdown especially those who live a hand-to-mouth existence in slum areas. Until now, millions of the affected families are still left behind from the emergency subsidies of the national government.
Worse, there is also an increase in cases of abuses and violence as a result of lockdowns and other measures of the government to contain the virus.
While there seems to be no end in sight to the crisis as the number of positive COVID-19 cases and death continue to surge, it is important to highlight the initiatives of some local government units (LGUs) in containing and combating the virus.
One of these LGUs is the city government of Marikina under the leadership of Mayor Marcy Teodoro. It recently opened a COVID-19 testing facility as a response to the call of Filipinos for free mass testing. The city government also partnered with the Manila Health Tek, Inc. and ordered three thousand (3000) COVID-10 test kits that have been developed by the University of the Philippines – National Institute for Health (UP-NIH) and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Marikina City is among the LGUs that first implemented a high-tech disinfection strategy by using drones to disinfect some of its major streets. It uses drones that are equipped with thermal scanners and speakers to remind the public about social distancing. It also deployed community sanitizing cannons and installed decontamination/sanitation tents in markets and other public places. Aside from concrete medical initiatives, relief packages including food and hygiene kits are regularly distributed among its constituents through the support of barangay officials. The city government also released cash aid to workers displaced by the COVID-19.
In Pasig City, Mayor Vico Sotto has also progressively responded to the crisis. From the purposeful budget allocation in health care to the immediate economic relief of its constituents. Mayor Sotto also strategically planned to generate P1-Billion additional COVID cash aid for those who are not covered by the Social Amelioration Program of the National Government.
There are also good practices recorded in the cities of Valenzuela and Cainta. It should be highlighted that the aforementioned LGUs gave emphasis on medical solutions complemented with sustained economic assistance – a far better from national government’s military centric approach.
It is also commendable how Marikina City Mayor Teodoro promoted the culture of cooperation among individuals and organizations in addressing the crisis. He even defended the ten (10) humanitarian workers who were arrested and detained by the Philippine National Police (PNP) while conducting a feeding program in Barangay Industrial Valley Complex, Marikina City last May 1, 2020. Two (2) of the ten (10) relief volunteers are members of the Task Force Children of the Storm (TFCOS) namely Relita Malundras (Executive Director of Parents Alternative on Early Childhood Care and Development and Deputy Secretary General of Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns) and Ronel Artizuela (Teacher of Batibot Day Care Learning Center and Spokesperson of the TFCOS).
In times of crisis, social solidarity and cooperation play a vital role in making the lives of those who are greatly burdened somehow easier. Sadly, some individual and organizational initiatives are being subjected to restriction, vilification and other repressive measures (e.g. arrest and detention of Former Anakpawis Representative Ariel Casilao and volunteers of Sagip Kanayunan in Norzagaray, Bulacan and killing of Bayan Muna Iloilo coordinator Jory Porquia).
Thus, the undersigned individuals and organizations express support to the well-meaning initiatives of the Marikina City government and other LGUs with good practices in comprehensively responding to the health crisis while addressing the economic needs of the people and ensuring the respect and observance of human and children’s rights. At the same time, we call on various individuals, non-government organizations, church institutions and private sectors to persistently assist people in need despite overwhelming challenges and limitations.
Arlene Brosas, Representative of Gabriela Women’s Party
Judy Taguiwalo, Former DSWD Secretary, Spokesperson of CURE COVID-19
1. Akap Sa Bata ng mga Guro – Kalinga Philippines
3. Artists in BPO Unite for Social Change
4. Association for the Rights of Children in South East Asia (ARCSEA)
5. Batibot Early Learning Center (BELC)
6. Bai Indigenous Women’s Network in the Philippines
7. Children’s Rehabilitation Center Inc.
8. CURE COVID –19
9. Defend Jobs Philippines
10. Educational Research and Development Assistance (ERDA) Foundation, Inc.
11. Greenpeace Southeast Asia – Philippines
12. Kabataan Partylist
13. Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan (KMK)
14. League of the Filipino Students (LFS)
15. National Network of Agrarian Reform Advocates – Youth (NNARA – Youth)
16. National Union of Sugar Workers (NFSW)
17. Parent’s Alternative on Early Childhood Care and Development (PAECCDI)
18. PAGASA-People for Accountable Governance and Sustainable Action
19. Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns
20. Save Our Schools Network – National Office
21. Save Our Schools Network – Southern Mindanao Region
23. Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA)
24. Youth Act Now
Eule Rico Bonganay
Secretary General, Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns
Member, Task Force Children of the Storm (TFCOS)