March 31 ------ President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night announced that the government has set aside P200 billion for low-income households affected by the community quarantines meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Philippines. "We have allotted P200 billion for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis. Sila ang nasa informal sector and those who live day to day on subsistence wages or no work no pay," Duterte said of what he called the biggest social assistance program in the history of the country.
"Arrangements, beneficiary households will receive emergency support for their 2 months based on the regional minimum wage," he added. Duterte, nonetheless, asked those who are well off to continue helping those who are in need. "However, I still count on everyone to also look out after their fellowmen, their countrymen," Duterte said. "To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking share 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," he added.
Duterte said the priorities of the government in combating the COVID-19 threat were to provide emergency assistance to affected sectors, securing facilities or resources for the health sector, and performing fiscal and monetary actions for the economy. "Food packs and essential non-food items are being distributed through the LGUs. Contaminated areas in the Viayas and Mindanao are receiving similar assistance," Duterte said. "More will be given to augment the requirements of the LGUs in the coming days. Gagawin ko lahat para walang magutom," he added.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III earlier said he expected Duterte to unveil a plan for the 18 million families in the country’s informal sector who are the hardest hit by the quarantine. The Department of Labor and Employment has also rolled out a P1.3-billion financial assistance package for 250,000 workers and a P180-million emergency employment program for people who temporarily lost their sources of income due to the Luzon-wide community quarantine. The enhanced community quarantine will last until April 13 as the government moves to contain the spread of COVID-19, which has so far claimed 78 lives and infected over 1,500 people nationwide.