Duterte’s response to COVID-19 epidemic is riddled with red flags – fishers group
Manila, Philippines – The militant fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) slammed the Luzon-wide enhanced quarantine declaration as response to the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 epidemic as purely population-control and marginalized the poor sectors who usually rely on their daily work to provide for their families. The group cited that its provisions are actually “red flags” or that will bring about danger to sections of the population.
“Duterte’s enhanced quarantine is obviously militarist, callous of the plight of poor sectors and even lacking the most important part, which is the health aspect of the response, or the decisive measures to strengthen the country’s health sector and manage the patients’ recovery,” Fernando “Ka Pando” Hicap, Pamalakaya National Chairperson said in a press statement.
He said that the enhanced quarantine reeks of elitism as it totally suspended mass transport, on which poor sectors rely on mobility. He raised that the government should instead set up an alternative mass transport system, distributed free face masks and other protective equipment, to both uphold social distancing and welfare of the poor.
“So to buy food and other needs, the poor should just walk? Or wait in vain for the promised delivery of food to their households amid unclear mechanisms for the distribution? This very provision is a generator of a red flag, which is hunger among poor sectors,” he criticized.
Pamalakaya, and rice self-sufficiency groups Amihan or National Federation of Peasant Women and Bantay Bigas also slammed the reported barring of entry of 30 trucks carrying rice from Nueva Ecija, and the barring of fish vendors from Cavite, who usually supply nearby cities within Metro Manila.
“They could not even secure the most important item in survival, which is food. Their very own response contributes to cutting off the supply and is certain to create a bigger problem in the near future,” he said.
Furthermore, he slammed the P27.5-billion response package as inadequate for poor sector’s social protection. He said that it is ridden with long-term proposals than the immediate concern of poor sectors’ daily needs.
“DOLE’s social protection proposal worth P2 billion could only serve around 130,000, if it is via P15,000 or P500 multiplied by 30 days package. And when would they get it? After the quarantine? This is another red flag,” he questioned and almost similar to the P1.2 billion for Social Security System’s (SSS) unemployment benefits.
He noted that the Duterte regime upheld its neoliberal character in offering loans and small-and-business enterprises, instead of decisive rehabilitation measures to pump-prime the national economy. He branded as the worst part is the allotment of P14 billion for the tourism industry.
“The most probable vehicle sector of the epidemic is being revived with biggest budget, instead of powering up the public health system’s capacity to respond. This is an added red flag in the response, and is the height of the regime’s imbecility,” the fisherfolk leader warned.
He said that the worst red flag is the apparent underestimation of the additional budget for the DOH amounting to P3.1 billion. This is broken down as P2 billion for personal protective equipment, P933 million for the Bureau of Quarantine, P139 for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM). This is amid that the country’s health system indicators involves the doctor to population ratio of 1 is to 33,000, hospital bed to population ratio of 1 is to 1,100, and 1 is to 800 in Metro Manila.
Moreover, the National Health Facility Registry in 2018 bared that the ratio of 52 government hospitals in Metro Manila to population is 229,000, of 17,221 government hospital beds ratio is 783, of 4,552 government physicians at 2,962.
The DOH in 2016 announced that the country needed 15,000 doctors and 42,000 hospitals to adequately serve the health needs of the people. According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the number of employed in the health and social work activities is at 960,000, in hospital activities at 130,000.
“The Duterte response to the epidemic is authoritarian, totalitarian, controlling people’s mobility and missing the most important part, the strengthening of the capacity of the health system. We urge the people to demand the health response and oppose the militarist solution,” he ended. ###