By MARK LAVARRO
MANILA — Despite government threats to ban humanitarian relief, a group of labor rights advocates continued providing food and other essentials to Manila’s poor as financial aid is still out of reach amid the two-week stricter lockdown.
Inspired by Malaysia’s White Flag movement, activists and volunteers of Defend Jobs Philippines went on with their Flag Brigade PH, saying that they aim “to concretize how people in their respective communities can ask and give support to each other.”
Mobile community organizers encouraged urban poor residents of Sampaloc needing aid during the lockdown to wave their red and green flags if they needed help or would want to give donations, respectively. The group intends to help 200 families.
Defend Jobs Philippines Spokesperson Christian Lloyd Magsoy said in a televised interview that the government has no business in keeping them from conducting humanitarian work when the government has yet to provide the poor with due aid.
In a resolution, the government’s pandemic response team said only authorized humanitarian work shall be allowed during the two-week stricter lockdown, which will be implemented until August 20. Organizers of community pantries, too, were told to coordinate with their local government units (LGUs) if they plan to hold activities in areas under ECQ.
The Joint Task Force COVID Shield Commander, L.t. General Ephraim Dickson emphasized that humanitarian activities are not allowed during the lockdown unless it is a part of the Authorized Persons Outside of their Residence (APOR).
The Department of Budget and Management said yesterday that they have already released P10.9 billion ($215 million) cash assistance to poor families in Metro Manila. This will be released to the respective local government units that will spearhead its distribution, where families can receive somewhere between P1,000 ($20) to P4,000 ($78).
Magsoy said their aim is to help – from “the government’s discouragement for Bayanihan spirit to grow and spread during the pandemic.”
“Prohibiting humanitarian activities during ECQ is an inhumane act,” Magsoy said.
In a statement, Kabataan Partylist Spokesperson Raoul Manuel said community pantries began and remained because the government has done very little to address hunger amid the pandemic.
“Community pantries were formed because of the failings of the Duterte administration. They should not be stopped, and the people should not be made to wait for vaccines, cash aid, and mass testing,” said Manuel.
Meanwhile, in a Facebook post, Patricia Non, who started the community pantry movement earlier this year, said it is difficult to expect people to stay at home if there is no sufficient support now that the Philippine capital and other provinces have reverted to a stricter lockdown.
She encouraged those who have resources to donate what they can.
“We will repack them, ready for distribution to families. We will do it in the safest, and contactless distribution to our communities,” she said in Filipino, “We need to come together to ensure that no families will go hungry.” (JJE, RVO)