The country is now officially the worst in South East Asia: the worst not only in its response to the pandemic but also the worst performing economy in the region. Recently, reports have shown that the Philippine’s economic growth performance has plummeted to a staggering -16.5% in the second quarter of the year, effectively putting the country in a state of economic recession.
There is no one to blame for the economic downturn but Duterte himself. While it is true that the pandemic has affected every country in the world almost equally, the dire situation we are in right now could’ve been mitigated or avoided altogether; case in point; Vietnam has actually registered positive growth at 0.4%, due to the fact that they were able to implement sound policies on the onset of the pandemic up until today, allowing for almost close to normal economic life.
The Department of Labor and Employment has already reported 554, 966 overseas Filipino workers looking for assistance, and continues to report closures and retrenchments despite the easing of lockdown restrictions last June. The unemployment figures are estimated to be in the millions: those unemployed combined with underemployed workers not at work which could be affected by lower incomes, could jump up to as much as 27 million.
These are but results of Duterte’s insistence to have the PNP and the AFP as the backbone of his COVID-19 response not only on ground but also on policy-making level, as evidenced by the dominance of his ex-military generals in the Inter-Agency Task Force responsible for the pandemic response. The over-reliance on lockdowns, with no significant health measures such as mass testing and contact tracing and socio-economic aid to accompany it, and the general plan to just wait for the vaccine is still wreaking havoc in the lives of ordinary Filipinos.
As the lack of scientific-health based measures persist in curbing the spread of the virus, the economy will continue to contract, more people will be left unemployed, and if the current policy of the government regarding aid is to be followed, this would mean that more people would have to struggle with hunger along with the virus. The longer this crisis persists, the costlier it would take for the government to mend the damage that itself and the pandemic have inflicted.
This youth representation urges the Duterte Administration to approach this crisis in a way the people have called for, for months now: to implement scientific, health-based solutions instead of a military centric approach. We demand greater transparency of the Bayanihan Heal as One funds, and we expect the same of the fast-tracked Bayanihan Recover as One bill along with a clear people-oriented plan with it. In the same light, we urge Duterte, along with DOF secretary Dominguez and acting NEDA secretary Chua, to desist in taking active steps in further protecting and enriching both foreign and local big business and to support our local medium to small enterprises instead, and to de-engage with his ambitious Build, Build, Build, program which does nothing but further bury the country in debt. Funding should then be directed to our giving aid and economic security to our workers and everyone in need amidst restrictions in mobility and the continuing loss of jobs. Misplaced budget and economic priorities further imperil the country, not save it.
This pandemic has exposed not only the ineptness of this regime, but also the deeper underlying weakness of unsustainable neoliberal policies. The extreme reliance of our country on foreign capital manifested in the likes of its labor-export policy and reliance on Transnational and Multinational corporations to run the economy has proven disastrous. Incessant privatization of the health sector and other social services have chained them to the whims of profit, instead of making them accessible to even the poorest of Filipinos. The need for a self-sustaining country built upon the realization of genuine agrarian reform, national industrialization, and the need to make social services free and accessible is here, now more than ever.
Hold Duterte, Dominguez, Chua and the IATF accountable for their gross negligence in the handling of the crisis, and out with the incompetent ex-military generals!
Amplify our calls for scientific, health-based and pro-people policies!###
August 7, 2020