Reopening the country’s economy will satisfy the needs of more than 7 million Filipino families who went hungry in recent months, Malacañang Spokesman Harry Roque said today, after a survey recorded the highest hunger incidence in the country since 2014.
The Social Weather Stations on Sunday released data that showed some 7.6 million households or 30.7% of the population experienced involuntary hunger due to lack of food to eat in the last three months, trumping September 2014’s previous high of 24.3%.
Roque said that the Duterte government will continue dispensing aid to families hit by the pandemic, which includes the allotted PHP13 billion (US$ 268 million) under the Bayanihan 2 Act for residents placed under localized lockdowns. The government’s coronavirus cash aid has had its share of controversies with government officials being accused of embezzling said funds and many complaining that they have yet to receive the promised aid.
Roque said, however, that putting Filipinos to work is the only assurance that they won’t go hungry.
“Until we do not open the economy fully, many will go hungry…the only guarantee to decrease the number of hungry people is to open the economy so more people can work. Because cash aids as we know are only temporary,” the spokesman said.
“We are calling on everyone, I know that COVID is scary but we’ve already shown that — because it’s been here for seven months — if you wear a mask, wash your hands, and practice [physical distancing], people can still work,” he added.
Unemployment is at an all-time high with nearly half the working population having lost their jobs since the lockdown was imposed in March. Many businesses were shuttered due to the lockdowns. The government has been pushing to reopen the economy by implementing looser quarantines all over the country, even opening up popular vacationing spots to boost the ailing tourism industry.
This is despite many medical and research experts’ advice that easing lockdowns should not only be done prematurely but should also be coupled with amped-up testing and contact tracing to prevent a surge of coronavirus infections.
The country’s confirmed COVID-19 cases now stands at 304,226, with 5,344 deaths and 252,510 recoveries.
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