As we end the fifth week of the Metro Manila lockdown, thanks to support from our donors, Fairplay now has 96 families in our weekly food distribution efforts. They will continue to receive the food packages until the end of this lockdown.
This week, our families received:
- 5kg of rice
- 1kg of monggo (local legume)
- 1kg of togue (beansprout)
- 1kg of squash
- 1kg of pechay (local vegetable, like bokchoy)
- 2 packs of tofu (20 pieces total)
As with the previous weeks, this ensures our families can eat during this time. As elsewhere, they still cannot go to work and support themselves as normal, and of course have no savings given most are working day to day.
Ineffective Government Support
The local barangay are struggling to keep up with the need. Simply put, they’re not equipped and don’t have the resources to deal with this. Most families have now received one or two rounds of relief goods, though these last for a few days per family and people are going hungry.
Worse, interviews for the social amelioration program (SAP) have only just begun – over one month into this lockdown. The SAP is the cash distribution of P5,000 to P8,000 per household. This would be a positive step, however the budget is only for half the families listed in each area. Many families don’t appear on those lists either, having no birth certificates or other registration, so most families in Payatas, and other areas, will receive nothing.
The time and cost to interview each household is likewise substantial; why the National government does not just provide this support for all families is difficult to understand. The red tape and bureaucracy is expensive and time-consuming, and more than a month into the lockdown the families have received no financial support from their government. Yet the government do have the funds available, not least through the pork barrel each politician receives.
If you’re asking poor families to stay at home and not work during this time, the least you can do is ensure they can eat.
There are also talks into heightened security measures for this lockdown, with the army starting to get involved. We will provide further updates once it is clear what is happening.
What Can You Do?
The best thing we can do right now is to lobby and pressure our political leaders. The major difference between how countries are handling this crisis is in the competence and effectiveness of our political leaders and health experts.
There are solutions and proven models from countries like South Korea, Taiwan, and, more regionally, Vietnam. There are answers. Mass tracing, testing and treatment, isolating positive cases, and establishing separate testing sites to ensure people do not potentially infect patients and staff at hospitals, are all part of the successful efforts.
As it stands, the Philippines has not even done 10% of the tests required to get to the more reasonable position of 10,000 tests per million population. As it stands, the Philippines it still in the lowest bracket of countries for testing worldwide, and this means we truly don’t know how widespread the disease is. To reach a more accurate understanding of how far the virus is spread, another 1 million tests would need to be done. Yet only 70,000 COVID tests remain in the Philippines, according to the DOH website. Some areas reporting positive cases are just considered entirely infected and further quarantined, without further testing the rest of the population nor treating the disease. The cost of testing and treatment for the virus is still on the individual, meaning only the wealthy can afford to be tested and treated as well.
We are lucky so many people want to help. We are lucky civil society, and even some companies are stepping up to assist int his crisis. What would make the biggest difference, however, is if governments can stop infighting, leaders can stop worrying about how they will be perceived on every detail. If our political leaders can stop putting all their effort into spin and can start the effective measures shown by other countries around the world, we may have a chance yet.
What We Will Do Next
We will, of course, be continuing the relief goods operations, providing weekly packages to our families.
We are also excited to be able to share the first issue of The Payatas Paper, written and produced by our scholars, during this time. It will be a new insight into how things are here and what people are doing during this time. Given most of our families have very little to do during the week, due to the lockdown measures, a focal point for writing and creating something is valuable.
Aside from that, there’s little more we can do at this stage. The red tape and bureaucracy for registering the testing sites prevents most groups from establishing further testing sites and expanding testing and treatment.
So until our next update we wish you well, hope you’re safe and able to rest. For those feeling anxious or even guilty about their situation, being able to rest and relax while there is so much need around, just remember we will need your help when the situation is resolved. We will need many rested people ready to jump in and substitute for those of us who have continued to work and tired through this time. So don’t feel guilty if you’re able to rest and do nothing during this time. That’s an opportunity too. Stay rested, stay healthy, and then you will be better placed to help when the lockdowns are lifted.