President Rodrigo Duterte promised in a speech last night that the national government will dole out PHP200 billion (US$3.9 billion) in aid to poor households that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and called health workers “lucky” for dying in the line of duty.
In his address, which was broadcast seven hours after its originally scheduled time, Duterte said, “We have allotted ₱200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by this crisis. Beneficiary households will receive emergency support for their two months based on the regional minimum wage.”
He described the aid as “the largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history.”
“This is the biggest aid that the government has given to its people, and this is the first time we had a problem like this, to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to quarantine measures in the face of COVID-19,” he said in English and Filipino.
Earlier this month, Duterte placed the entire island of Luzon on a monthlong lockdown, which led to the closure of most businesses and the loss of jobs for many Filipinos. Many have had to rely on their local governments for food and other necessities.
The president last night also urged middle and upper-class Filipinos to help those whose livelihoods have been badly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking care of the less fortunate and keeping our society intact. They have also contributed to our prosperity in one way or the other, so let us support them in this crisis. Let it be said that in the hour of our country’s greatest need, we all look out for and help each other. Let’s open our hearts to those in need,” he said.
He also promised that his administration will come to the aid of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have suffered due to the Luzon lockdown, as well as those working in the agricultural sector.
“The government will provide a recovery package, especially to SMEs to help deal with the economic effects of this pandemic. My economic deal is already creating the guidelines for this as I speak,” he said.
“To our farmers and our fisherfolk, we have not forgotten you, and [the] government is now employing quick response measures to help you during the crisis, as well as to ensure food productivity, availability, and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic. The government is here for you,” he added.
He also thanked the country’s fallen health workers for their contributions, and even called them “lucky” to have died while attending to the sick. As of yesterday, 78 people had died of COVID-19, at least 12 of whom are doctors.
“There are doctors, nurses, attendants who have died. These are the ones who died while helping other people. They’re so lucky, they died for the country. That should be the reason for all of us to die,” he said.
Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, slammed the controversial remark today in a statement posted to her Facebook page today.
“Our health workers are not ‘lucky’ to die of COVID-19. Our health workers should not have been dying in the first place if they had been given ample PPEs & access to testing. Now that there are special powers and funds, no more excuses.”
Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters that Duterte has already submitted a full report on the actions that his administration has taken so far to combat COVID-19, GMA News reports. The report, which Sotto said he was still reading, was sent to the senator at 12:40am this morning.
Congress has given Duterte additional powers to deal with the health crisis by passing the Bayanihan [Camaraderie] to Heal as One Act of 2020. The law requires the president to provide a weekly report to Congress on what he had done to meet the objective, including details about how the budget is being allocated.
This article, Duterte pledges PHP200 billion to poor affected by COVID-19, says health workers ‘lucky’ to die for country, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!