Duterte vows to find ways to help middle class amid Luzon lockdown

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Duterte vows to find ways to help middle class amid Luzon lockdown
Shoppers queue outside a grocery store in Araneta Avenue in Quezon City on March 27, 2020.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to find ways to help the middle class while the government is implementing a lockdown in Luzon to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

While admitting that the multi-billion peso aid he recently unveiled may not be enough to support low-income households in two months, Duterte said the government cannot just focus on the poorest of the poor.

The president said he agreed with Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, who wrote him recently to call for the inclusion of the middle class in the government program aimed at assisting sectors sidelined by the lockdown.

"I will discuss it when I reach the point raised by Governor Remulla of Cavite which I think is valid. We’ll try to remedy whatever kung may mapulot pa tayo sa daan (if we pick something along the way)," Duterte said in a televised address Monday night.

"Governor Jonvic Remulla wrote me... He (was) appealing to include the middle class in their constituency because they also need help. I agree. I know the political economic horizon of the country," he added.

Duterte said members of the middle class are also feeling the pinch because they also incur expenses.

"They (middle class) have money deposited for the rainy days. Now what is really very sad is that the rain has arrived," he said.

The middle class, however, may have to wait until next month before they receive assistance.  

"Hindi ako nagyayabang, maliit lang ‘yang akin (I am not bragging, I do not have much funds), how I deal with the problem, alam ko, at kung maari lang isali ko sila (If possible, I can include them). But can they be included in the... P270 (billion) next month," Duterte said.

The president said the most vulnerable citizens especially the poorest of the poor must receive the  government’s assistance immediately.

"If not, they would die of hunger," Duterte said.

In his letter to Duterte, Remulla noted that the public health crisis brought about by COVID-19, affects everyone, including people who have "built much but not enough." The governor lamented that members of the middle class are often overlooked even if they pay the most taxes. About 300,000 members of middle class are employed in Manila while 400,000 others work from economic zones, Remulla said.  

Duterte admitted that the P275 billion allotted for the government's social amelioration program may not be enough to support vulnerable sectors in two months. He noted that the government is spending much to help poor households and informal workers affected by the lockdown but does not earn enough revenues because of slower economic activity.

"The economy is not moving, standstill, so we do not have revenues. We are using the money we reserved," Duterte said.

Duterte said he has ordered the finance department to raise revenues so the government would have enough funds for its aid programs. 

2019 N-COV


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