The government can no longer provide additional financial assistance to low-income households and affected residents under the Enhanced Community Quarantine in the so-called NCR Plus bubble should the strictest measure against COVID-19 be extended for another week after the April 11 deadline set by Malacanang.
This developed as 8,000 workers were displaced by the first three days of the reimposed ECQ in the National Capital Region and four neighboring provinces, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported Monday.
“We have no more funds for ayuda [subsidies], and Congress currently is in recess so in case we need a supplemental budget, we would have to request for a special session. I don’t think ECQ for a third week is actually a possibility,” Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Monday.
In a television interview, Roque said the P1,000 worth of aid per person or a maximum P4,000 per household — which will be given either in cash or kind — is the final amount since workers did not go to work for at least three days last week in observance of the Holy Week.
“It has been a tradition that people only go to work on Monday and Tuesday during Holy Week, so the lost income is only for two days,” Roque said in an ANC interview.
The assistance will be released to local government units this week, he added.
“The nature of the aid is to tide the family over until they can go back to work again. That amount would be it,” Roque said.
The national government has earmarked P23 billion for granting aid to low-income households in Metro Manila and the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, and Laguna, which is under ECQ from March 29 to April 11.
The ECQ protocol — a policy which prevents non-essential trips and non-essential businesses and services from operating — was supposed to end on Easter Sunday, but it was extended for another week due to the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, Labor Assistant Secretary Dominique "Nikki" Tutay said latest data shows there were a total of 118,210 displaced workers as of last Wednesday, March 31.
"Around 8,000 were added to workers displaced, in terms of retrenchment and permanent closure," she said during the Department of Labor and Employment V-Cafe briefing.
The figure is expected to rise, as the ECQ in NCR Plus was extended, Tutay said, as the DOLE is now finalizing programs to assist workers who lost their jobs due to the quarantines, which have now past over a year in the country.
"Our fear is that because of this pandemic, those firms trying to survive might lead to temporary or permanent closure and that is what we need to address," she said.
Tutay said the department has already computed how much is needed for the program but she did not elaborate.
The Philippines has set an ambitious target of adding an unprecedented 2.4 to 2.8 million jobs this year under the National Employment Recovery Strategy (NERS).
The latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) shows that the unemployment rate crept up to 8.8% in February, equivalent to 4.2 million jobless Filipinos.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said a two-week modified enhanced community quarantine — one notch lower than the ECQ — would bring about P2.1 billion daily losses, raise the number of hungry Filipinos by 58,000; and increase unemployed Filipinos by 128,500.