Research and advocacy group Ibon Foundation renewed its call for government to provide much needed cash assistance to the country’s lowest income families even as quarantine restrictions have been eased. It said the meager P1,000 “ayuda (help)” is not enough to mitigate the worsening poverty situation in the country amid the pandemic.
Ibon said the ayuda would cushion the impact of worsening poverty, especially as jobs and incomes have yet to recover amid repeated and ineffective lockdowns.
“Coupled with correct health and stimulus measures, emergency assistance can at least alleviate the economic distress of Filipinos, maintain some level of demand and consumption, and put the economy on the road to recovery,” Ibon said.
During the third round of lockdowns a few weeks ago, the government released P1,000 per person or P4,000 maximum per family. Although restrictions were already eased on August 21, many are reported not to have received their ayuda yet.
The poorest 70 percent of families or about 17.3 million people lost an average of P13,000 to P32,000 in the past 17 months of the pandemic. The number of households without any savings also rose to 17.8 million, which means they are completely dependent on daily earnings or debt. Amid a weak economic situation due to labor woes and high commodity prices, Ibon believes even more Filipinos will surely fall into poverty.
Ibon has been supporting calls for at least a one-time P10,000 ayuda to be given to the poorest 18 million families. It believes a strong fiscal stimulus would spur aggregate demand which has long been subdued due to the pandemic. Lawmakers are also pushing for a Bayanihan 3 to aid in economic recovery.
“To mitigate poverty, the government needs to ensure substantial ayuda and support to help Filipinos in need. Real and substantial spending on people’s immediate needs as well as that of production sectors and small businesses is urgent to recover from the harsh impact of the pandemic crisis and lockdowns on livelihoods and incomes,” Ibon said.
Despite the seemingly never-ending series of lockdowns and restrictions, the economic team of President Duterte is still not keen on prioritizing any stimulus package as funding sources are apparently still being looked into.However, with the recent Commission on Audit reports showing that billions in funds for the Covid-19 response had been left unspent by various government agencies, perhaps we can now spend on the Filipino people to prevent them from sliding deeper into poverty and stimulating much needed economic recovery at the same time?*