As the enhanced community quarantine due to the COVID-19 threat continues, a grim reality is becoming more felt: it is not just lives that are at stake, but also livelihoods. For many, survival is indeed a priority, but what good is survival if they face the prospect of starving?
While we must concede that our individual rights and freedom must yield to our survival as country and people, creativity still plays a major role in balancing both sides of the equation and still satisfy both concerns.
For instance, daily wage earners – including drivers of public utility vehicles such as jeepneys, taxis and pedicabs, as well as vendors, construction workers, waiters, and even caddies – are hit hard by the public transport ban. Without wages for even just a week, how will they feed their families? Parents may go hungry for the sake of the children. But when their children go hungry, God knows what they will do next.
Our authorities may consider creative solutions. There are options – such as deputizing them even on a rotational basis to help ferry front-liners or those needing emergency transport, or even performing other jobs not related to their job descriptions while ensuring they follow protocols like social distancing, etc.; or advancing whatever benefits are due them such as compensation and other subsidies, so they will not completely rely on government dole-outs which are also limited.
For example, Davao City has implemented the TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers) program of the Department of Labor and Employment. They provide allowance but made the drivers earn their keep by doing work for the city. The e-trikes for front-liners in Manila is another. There could be more. No need to be rocket scientists to be creative.
Having said that, does the government have a reliable database to determine how many are vulnerable, and more importantly, who they are? Since the National ID system – which would have helped greatly in situations like this – has not gotten off the ground after the passage of the Philippine System Identification Act in 2018, there should be a system to address this concern.
While our national government agencies and local government units try to find a balance between the health of the public and the immediate needs of constituents during this critical time, a little flexibility – and creativity – might help. Better to be flexible so those affected can make ends meet, than to have them resort to crime and anarchy.