Hontiveros: Even without Bayanihan 3, gov’t must prep emergency cash aid amid COVID-19 infection spike

MANILA – (March 16, 2021) – Senator Risa Hontiveros sees the need for ‘standby cash aid’ ready for emergency release as the COVID-19 cases in the country continue to rise following the local detection of new, more transmissible COVID-19 variants. She believes that this can and should be done even if the economic managers still refuse to support Bayanihan 3 bills in the House and Senate.

“Apat na milyong Pilipino at kanilang mga pamilya ang wala halos pagkunan sa araw-araw dahil walang trabaho. Ang mga may trabaho naman, posibleng mabawasan ng oras ng pasok. Kailangan ng pantawid sahod to help them tide over these localized and granular lockdowns,” she said. 

Hontiveros said that unemployment is hitting double digits in regions, like in Calabarzon at 13.1 % and Bicol at 11.4%, both of which are higher than the national unemployment rate. She stressed that the workers, especially the four million unemployed in January, will be the most affected by the reinstatement of curfews and stricter health protocols. The ‘looming national lockdown’, according to her, should prompt the government to provide another round of cash assistance.

“The daily increase in the number of new cases is very alarming. We must anticipate and prepare for all possible scenarios, including mobility restrictions,  especially now that Metro Manila mayors have already imposed curfews again,” she added. 

She then urged the economic managers to consider giving another round of cash grants to families affected by COVID-19. First is a second round of wage subsidies being proposed by the DOLE. Second is the updating of the roster of DSWD’s Pantawid Pamilya, now that the Listahanan 3 process is almost complete. 

The wage subsidy for workers, not receiving wages because their companies are in financial distress,  can be implemented even without a Bayanihan 3 bill, in the same manner that the DoF implemented the first round of wage subsidies. The Pantawid Pamilya budget, on the other hand, can simply be augmented for the hundreds of thousands of new poor who will be eligible for the program by mid April when the LISTAHANAN 3 validation process is completed. 

Hontiveros also said that with OCTA research team’s projection of up to 8,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 if the current trend continues, all the more that the government should see the necessity to augment the resources of the local government units (LGUs), especially those whose areas were placed under lockdown to contain infection surges.

“Experts have already warned us. And we have already seen this before sa isang taon nating pakikipagbuno sa pandemya. Alam na natin kung saan ito papunta, kaya hindi pwedeng chill-chill lang. I can’t emphasize enough how badly our Kababayans need aid,” Hontiveros said. 

“From overwhelming hospital bills to drastic hunger due to joblessness, emergency aid is a basic need in this pandemic. Huwag na nating hintaying malagay na naman tayo sa alanganin bago kumilos at maghanda. Walang oras na dapat masayang, lalo na para kalusugan at kabuhayan ng mga Pilipino,” Hontiveros concluded. ###