The middle class sector is badly hit
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - May 22, 2020 - 12:00am

First off, allow me to greet a very pleasant happy birthday to Cebu City Mayor Edgardo Labella. I know that having your birthday in this time of Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) isn’t the ideal way to spend anyone’s birthday. Especially for you, mayor, as you spend your work hours to help ease our burdens from this COVID-19. We all hope and pray that by month’s end, we would no longer be on ECQ and focus more on the recovery of our economy.

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Although I wrote this in my Philippine STAR column yesterday, I’m glad that The FREEMAN came up with an editorial on this issue that Sen. Cynthia Villa did not want to support the middle class sector in our society as they have work even in the days of ECQ. Worst, she even used data that was five years old, which is already passé, to say the least. Allow me to reprint the editorial in part.

“The COVID-19 pandemic continues to make some people famous, for better or worse. Another public figure that gained notoriety recently is Senator Cynthia Villar who the other day questioned why middle-class income families should get aid from the government during the quarantine period. “Bakit bibigyan ‘yung (middle-class)? Eh may trabaho sila, kahit lock down, nagsu-sweldo sila. Sa gobyerno, kung employed by the government. Kung employed naman ng local, ng mga private, nagsu-sweldo din sila,” Villar said during the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing.

“Naturally, her statement drew a lot of criticism and yesterday Villar apologized for her statement. It’s good that she has done so, so let’s let that be. It’s so easy to attack Villar for her statement, blaming her ignorance and lack of appreciation for the middle class on her current position in society and privileged upbringing; after all she was born into wealth and never experienced the lack of it. However, let’s not do that and instead focus on why the middle class should be given aid.”

Call it very timely that just yesterday the World Bank issued a statement that said, “The coronavirus pandemic could push as many as 60 million people into extreme poverty.” The World Bank warning suggests deepening pessimism among economists about the scale and duration of the fallout from this crisis. World Bank President David Malpass said, “The worsening outlook is due to the outbreak shutting down economic activity and "erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation."

World Bank predicted a month ago that this year would mark a historic step back for inequality, with the pandemic "likely to cause the first increase in global poverty since 1998." The World Bank president said in a blog post last April 20 that its "best estimate" was that 49 million people would be forced into extreme poverty, which the bank defines as having to live on less than $1.90 per day. The worsening outlook is due to the outbreak shutting down economic activity and "erasing much of the recent progress made in poverty alleviation.”

This is why I strongly believe that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) should no longer entertain any extension of our ECQ or lockdowns in barangays or villages that have a rise in cases and the nation’s focus should now be on restarting our failed economy so at least the middle class can return to work.

Meanwhile, I saw report in the Philippine STAR that Sen. Villar issued an apology when she attacked the middle class, saying, “I might have framed my statement in such a manner that I was insensitive to the plight of the middle class sector. I look out for the welfare of the middle-income workers. If I have offended anyone, I humbly apologize.” Okay apology accepted. I just hope that next time before she issues a statement she should get the proper data so she won’t end up apologizing for making wrong statements.

In the meantime, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said during the Senate virtual hearing on the government’s COVID-19 response that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country rose to 13,221 as of Wednesday, May 20. “Actually, (we are now in the) second wave.” I don’t know what Secretary Duque is talking about our fatality rate is still 840 deaths, so we are not really in the second wave!

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