Some 22.9 million individuals or 80 percent of the low-income population in the National Capital Region, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal or the so-called NCR plus bubble, will receive P1,000 amelioration assistance from the national government for the duration of the one-week Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ).
Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque Jr. said that as many as four individuals can receive the amelioration assistance per family. “Isang libo kada indibidwal, maximum apat na libo kada pamilya,” said Secretary Roque in a press briefing on March 30, 2021.
The Palace official presented the estimated breakdown of beneficiaries as follows: “Sa NCR ang bibigyan po ay 11.2 million, sa Bulacan 3 million, sa Cavite 3.4 million, sa Laguna 2.7 million, at sa Rizal ay 2.6 million. Ang suma total po 22.9 million beneficiaries sa halagang P22.9-B.”
The amelioration assistance, which was earlier recommended by Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, would be sourced from Bayanihan 2 and the 2021 budget. “Hindi naman kinakailangan ng bagong ayuda. Titingnan muna natin kung ano ang available sa Bayanihan 2 at saka sa 2021 budget. Ito po iyung katugunan sa naging suhestiyon ni Senator Go,” Roque quipped.
The budget for this will be downloaded directly to local government units (LGUs) to ensure immediate distribution to intended beneficiaries, said Sec. Roque. “Originally kasi the concern was dapat mapunta talaga sa pagkain yung ayuda. Pero we realized na sa panahon ng pandemya kinakailangan mas mabilis pero meron pa rin namang somehow leeway ang mga LGUs. … (K)ung ma-assure nila na mabilisan na in kind wala pong problema yun, pero kung bibili pa, matatagalan, well mas maganda pong i-cash na lang,” Secretary Roque said.
The intent is for the amelioration assistance to reach the intended beneficiaries the soonest possible time, Roque said. “Kaugnay nito, nagsabi ang DSWD na maglalagay sila ng grievance mechanism para matiyak na mabilis at transparent ang pamamahagi ng tulong sa mga benepisyaryo,” said Sec. Roque.
Meanwhile, the Palace spokesperson and concurrent Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) spokesperson said that the possibility of extending the ECQ for another week is being carefully studied by the IATF. “Pero sinabi ko na po ito, another week or 2 weeks MECQ, yan po ay magiging absolute last resort,” Roque quipped.
He said that the most important aspect to consider now is the critical care capacity. He added that one of the reasons for the ECQ implementation is to prepare the healthcare system to treat those who will get the severe case of COVID-19.
Sec. Roque added that with the one week NCR plus bubble, plus one week ECQ, including the strict adherence to the minimum public health standards and the intensified case finding and symptom checking by the CODE Team, with intensified testing and isolation, the government is hoping that there would be no need to extend the ECQ.
Meanwhile, on the National Vaccination Program, Roque said that as of latest figures presented to the President, there are now 688,018 medical frontliners who have been vaccinated in 2,497 vaccination sites. It can be recalled that the IATF and the President recently approved the recommendation to have parallel vaccination as an added measure to curb the surge in cases.
National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said that their recommendation to the President is to combine priority A1 to A3 groups for this purpose. Secretary Galvez said that after a month of inoculating the healthcare workers, it is time to also give protection to the seniors and those with comorbidities to limit the burden of diseases and lessen the burden of hospitalization among the said groups.
In terms of testing, NTF Deputy Chief Implementer and Testing Czar Secretary Vivencio Dizon reported that as of the week of March 22-28, 2021, the average daily tests per day have reached 51,104, with a total of 10,087,813 total tests conducted as of March 28, 2021. Secretary Dizon added that the government also procured 500,000 antigen test kits for deployment to communities with confirmed outbreak. Dizon explained that they are targeting to add 30,000 antigen tests per day in the NCR plus bubble for use by the hospitals to test patients and healthcare workers, and also by LGUs for testing in communities with high prevalence and high number of cases. ### OPS-PCOO