UP residents dread lockdown losses, delayed aid

UP residents grow weary over mobility restrictions set to disrupt their livelihood as Metro Manila reverts to the strictest form of lockdown today, Aug. 6, amid rising cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant. 

Among them, Louise Castillo worries that the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) will slash the already flailing income she gets from her small snack business in Brgy. Krus Na Ligas, located beside the University.  

Although the ECQ would still allow food businesses like hers to operate, Castillo expects fewer customers, as food establishments are only allowed to accept take-out and online orders. Curfew restrictions also cap her operating time between 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

“Patay na [ang] negosyo,” she told TNP. “Hindi naman araw-araw mabenta tapos dadagdag pa ECQ.”

For Andrea Bullag, an online-based food store owner from the same neighborhood, enduring depressed earnings under lockdown is better than having nothing on the table for her two children. 

“Tuloy-tuloy pa rin hanggang pwede pa pong mag-deliver, hanggat pwede pang mag-online. Kasi ito lang ang pinagkakakitaan naming mag-asawa,” she said. 

UP residents like them who own food businesses share the same worries as those in the transport sector.

Yet to bounce back from the last ECQ, jeepney driver Nolan Grulla from Brgy. U.P. Campus said he would again struggle to make ends meet. His operator decided to temporarily stop him from plying the UP-SM North route because of fewer passengers.  

The Department of Transportation allows public utility vehicles to continue operations during ECQ but only at half the seating capacity, slashing the profit jeepney drivers used to get before lockdown.

Grulla, whose jeepney unit was broken a week before the ECQ, remains uncertain how his family would survive the stricter quarantine.

“Sobrang liit ng kinikita gawa ng hindi pwedeng punuan [ang jeep]. Kung yung kikitain [bago ang ECQ] maliit na, eh paano pa yung ngayon? Sa bigas lang kulang na kulang na,” Grulla said.  

Related story: Halted physical classes, looming phaseout burden UP jeepney drivers

The newly-instated ECQ is expected to worsen the 7.7% unemployment rate recorded in June, reports the Department of Labor and Employment. The previous ECQ last March 27 saw the rate rise from 7.1% to 8.7% in April.

With pockets stretched thin, Grulla hopes for the immediate release of the P13.1 billion cash assistance promised by the government, amounting to P1,000 per person or a maximum of P4,000 per family. 

The Department of Budget and Management announced earlier today that the funds are ready to be turned over to local government units (LGU). The Department of the Interior and Local Government, however, said LGUs could not start distribution right away as preparations and legal processes have to be followed. 

With cash aid distribution plans yet to be finalized, Bullag worries about receiving the money late. She dreads that LGUs are yet to learn from the delayed stimulus aid distribution during the previous ECQ, which left numerous beneficiaries empty-handed.

“Salamat kung merong ayuda, [pero] mahirap umasa,” she added. 

With more than a year of push and pull between quarantine classifications, Bullag thinks government authorities are still far from giving a coordinated pandemic response. 

“Tingin ko hindi [sapat ang tugon ng pamahalaan sa pandemya]. Hindi kasi namin alam kung ano ang totoo tungkol sa COVID-19. Kawawa lang ang mahihirap na katulad namin,” she said. 

Frustrated that the pandemic situation is yet to see a clear end, Grulla said lockdowns cannot solve the problems posed by the pandemic. 

“Lagpas isang taon ng ganito. Paulit-ulit na lang, parang pinaglalaruan na lang tayo,” he said. “Hindi naman ECQ ang solusyon. Ang dapat diyan bilisan nila ‘yung pagbibigay sa tao ng bakuna.”

Today, the Philippines logged 10,623 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily increase in the last three months. The Department of Health also reported 119 new Delta variant infections, 18 of which are from Metro Manila. The ECQ is set to continue until Aug. 20.

With reports by Renz Palalimpa

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