Social justice approach also needed in responding to the pandemic
President Duterte’s lockdown order was heavy with travel bans and prohibition of public gatherings, with unsettling warnings of possible imprisonment, if violated. While these steps are important in controlling the spread of COVID-19, a medical and social welfare approach to the health crisis is also as important.
The absurdity of the Duterte administration’s approach is obvious with the recent advice of Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez that employees living outside Metro Manila should rent a place within the quarantined area of their work. Such advice is truly insensitive and elitist. Minimum wage earners could never afford to rent another house, how much more those who live a hand-to-mouth existence? Vendors, for example, who used to travel to Manila to earn are now greatly affected.
Let our economic vulnerabilities be clear. A family of six should have at least P1,022 a day for basic needs; however, the minimum wage is pegged at only P537 a day. Even without COVID-19, the contradiction is glaring. Poor Filipino families are already struggling to make ends meet, but with this health crisis, working-class and poor families have become even more vulnerable.
It makes much more sense for the additional budget for the military (P2.093 billion) and police (P1.73 billion) to be utilized by adding the money to health funds as well and using it to support the working class.
The COVID-19 pandemic could have been an opportune moment for the government to prove that it is serving the welfare of the people. We need to be assured that the response to COVID-19 must include:
1) free and accessible tests, treatment, and hospitalization as needed;
2) intensive, massive, and science-based information campaigns to debunk and overcome hearsay, myths, and the irresponsible spread of wrong information on COVID-19;
3) health and sanitation programs for communities, institutions, and public places;
4) funds for research on vaccines and treatment of COVID-19, as well as for additional facilities and supplies around the country;
5) social and economic support for workers whose jobs are affected;
6) additional compensation (hazard pay and noncash benefits ) for health workers or frontliners;
7) installation of health facilities for assessment and treatment;
8) health and medical-driven preventive measures;
9) available and affordable water supply in all communities (for washing hands frequently—a critical prevention step); and
10) price control on commodities, matched by strong action against capitalists and profiteers who take advantage of the crisis to earn even more profit.
NORMA P. DOLLAGA
Damayang Simbahan Sa Panahon ng Disaster
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