SENATOR Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go urged concerned national government agencies to assure the public that qualified beneficiaries, from the poor to the middle class, will receive financial and livelihood assistance through various programs of the government while the country continues its fight against the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
In an interview during the ocular inspection of the quarantine facility at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Go, also chair of the Senate Committee on Health and a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee that monitors the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, said the government must do its best to ensure that various programs are immediately implemented to benefit the affected sectors of society.
“Paakyat po. Ito ang gusto ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte. Hindi naman lahat kayang pagbigyan. Pero sa maabot ng makakaya ng gobyerno ay gagawin n’ya po,” Go said, adding that the President is meeting with his finance managers to discuss the next steps the government should take to ensure that those most affected by the crisis, including the middle class and small businesses, get the assistance they need to survive.
“Ang prayoridad natin ngayon ay mabigyan ng ayuda ang pinakamahihirap. ‘Yung mga hindi maisama sa eighteen million families para sa emergency cash subsidy, mayroon ring mga programa ang gobyerno na makakatulong sa iba pang mga apektadong mamamayan,” Go explained.
Starting from the poorest of the poor, around 18 million Filipino family-beneficiaries are receiving assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development for two months under the Social Amelioration Program.
“Pupunta rin tayo sa lower-middle class, uunahin ng Department of Labor and Employment yung tulong sa mga affected overseas Filipino workers, pati itong sa mga empleyado (ng pribadong sektor),” Go said.
DOLE has an existing COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program for affected workers in the formal sector and it consists of a one-time P5,000 cash assistance and employment facilitation services. For affected workers in the informal sector, DOLE is extending them temporary employment through its Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers Barangay Ko, Bahay Ko Disinfection/Sanitation Project or the TUPAD #BKBK program.
“After sa DOLE, ang Department of Finance at Social Security System naman po ang magbibigay ng tulong. Hinihimay po ng mabuti to avoid duplication. Ito naman yung sa mga MSMEs natin para naman maitawid rin sila... Ang importante 'yung tiyan ng bawat Pilipino, wala magugutom dapat,” he added.
The DOF is preparing a list of qualified beneficiaries through the Bureau of Internal Revenue for its subsidy program for employees of MSMEs that are totally or partially closed due to the crisis.
They will be paid directly through various modes, including through SSS Unified Multi-Purpose Identification Card enrolled as ATM, bank account, e-wallet or cash pick-up. Amount of assistance may range from P5,000 to P8,000, depending on the regional wage rates.
Based on data from DOF, there are around 1.6 million businesses in the country’s formal sector. Some 436,300 of them were forced to stop operations. Affected workers are estimated at 3.4 million nationwide.
Meanwhile, Go also thanked the private companies which have extended help to boost the country’s efforts in the fight against the virus.
“Maraming salamat po sa mga tumulong na mga negosyante at nanawagan po si Pangulong Duterte sa kanila noon pa man na magbayanihan tayo,” he said.
“Kung hindi natin ito malampasan dahil hindi tayo nagtulungan at hindi ito kinaya ng gobyerno, pag bumagsak ang gobyerno, bagsak din ang negosyo... Kailangan natin magtulungan, kailangan natin makatawid sa problemang ito at malampasan ang krisis bilang isang nagkakaisang bansa,” he added.
With gaps still needing to be filled up, Go then reiterated his appeal to the private sector, particularly big businesses, to help augment the assistance to the middle class by taking care of their respective employees and communities.
“This assistance prioritizes those at the bottom, the poorest, most vulnerable and the displaced. It trickles up as the government prepares assistance to SME (small- and medium-sized enterprises) as well,” the Senator said.
“It is thus my hope that those on top — the rich and the big businesses — will continue to meet us halfway by keeping on augmenting the aid coming from government as well as by taking care of their communities and employees,” he appealed.