COVID-19 THROUGH THE CRACKS: Helping the vulnerable and invisible during the pandemic

Mga kapitbahay, the latest set of The UrbanisMO Podcast episodes are out on all platforms. This time, we focus on marginalized sectors and far-flung regions that are as vulnerable to the deadly outbreak but don’t seem to get as much attention as NCR and other urban hotspots. Forgotten Filipinos are at risk of falling through the cracks.

To help ensure that the country’s coronavirus response becomes inclusive and more sensitive to the plight of the marginalized, UrbanisMO.PH, Young Public Servants and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism led a series of podcast conversations focusing on sectors that are perceptibly absent in mainstream discussions about the Covid-19 response: senior citizens, persons with disabilities, farmers and micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and conflict-affected communities outside Metro Manila. And we’ve got an amazing lineup of speakers, interviewed by our favourite historian Aaron Mallari.

Episode 1: The Covid-19 response: Are the elderly and disabled being left behind?

Emily Beridico from the Coalition of Services for the Elderly, Dr. Maureen Mata of AKAP Pinoy (Alyansa ng may Kapansanang Pinoy) and Dr. Grace Cruz of the UP Population Institute weigh in on the issue of inclusion in the time of Covid-19.

Episode 2: Lockdown learning: Making education accessible despite the pandemic.

Dr. Grace Zozobrado-Hahn, a physician and Steiner-Waldorf Education practitioner based in Palawan, says children face their own set of challenges during the pandemic, while Regina Sibal, former principal of Miriam College Grade School and Far Eastern University Senior High School, outlines measures that the government and the education sector need to take to ensure continued access to education. Elsa Magtibay, a school administrator at Xavier School in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, points to opportunities to improve educational delivery.

Episode 3: Covid-19 in the Bangsamoro (Part 1 of 2)

Bangsamoro ministers Atty Naguib Sinarimbo and MP Atty Laisa Masuhud Alamia discuss how the pandemic response has become one of the region’s biggest challenges to date, as it transitions to a parliamentary government that is autonomous, but somewhat still reliant on the national government. Prof. Rufa Cagoco-Guiam, an expert on governance and inclusion, weighs in on how the pandemic and the Bangsamoro government’s ability to deal with it is crucial to the peace process.

Episode 4: Covid-19 in the Bangsamoro (Part 2 of 2)

Bangsamoro parliament member Zia Alonto Adiong and Ma’am Azrifah Mamutuk of the Lanao del Sur provincial government discuss the aftermath of the Marawi siege more than three years and a pandemic later, while NGO leader Fatima Pir Allian calls attention to the plight of displaced Bangsamoro people outside the region.

Episode 5: Lifeline needed: Small businesses struggle amid lockdowns.

Charlene Tan and Mabi David of Good Food Community talk about the effects of the pandemic on farmers and local food systems, and local government responses to address these challenges, while Meann Ignacio speaks from her experiences in a cooperative that helps urban communities continue to earn a living. Ronn Astillas of the LGBT Chamber of Commerce discuss how LGBT companies are coping with the new normal of doing business.

These episodes are available on The UrbanisMO Podcast channel on Anchor, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Google Podcasts, PocketCasts, RadioPublic, Spotify and Stitcher.

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/urbanismo-podcasts 

ApplePodcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-urbanismo-podcast/id1505613635?uo=4 

Breaker: https://www.breaker.audio/the-urbanismo-podcast 

Google Podcasts:  https://www.google.com/podcasts?feed=aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8xOTg2ZDVmOC9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw== 

PocketCasts: https://pca.st/7jz54wym 

RadioPublic: https://radiopublic.com/the-urbanismo-podcast-G3AaBA 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/3xzcwTTq2PZSLiWXpJfs2E Stitcher: https://www.stitcher.com/podcast/the-urbanismo-podcast

This five-episode podcast was produced by UrbanisMO.PH and Young Public Servants with support from Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines, International Center for Innovation, Transformation, and Excellence in Governance (INCITEGov) and PCIJ.

Hat-tip to editor Carl Sayat and everyone who helped put this series together!

Bakit Mahirap Maging Mahirap sa Luzon Lockdown?

Maraming salamat sa GMA Public Affairs sa pagkakataon.

Premiered Apr 22, 2020

“Tao sila. Hindi sila pasaway.” Paano mo gagawin ang home quarantine kung kailangan mong kumita para hindi magutom ang iyong pamilya? Paano ka rin makakapag-social distancing kung siksikan kayo sa loob ng bahay? Ayon sa pag-aaral ng grupong Urbanismo, mahirap ang maging mahirap sa ilalim ng Enhanced Community Quarantine sa Luzon. Bakit kaya nila ito nasabi? Alamin sa video! Bisitahin ang gmanews.tv/COVID19 para sa updates tungkol sa coronavirus pandemic.

Adapting Humanitarian & Development Operations for COVID-19 Response in the Philippines

Colleagues,

COVID-19 represents a challenge for the humanitarian and development sectors that was not in anyone’s work and financial plans. In the spirit of sharing and collaboration, we suggest seven early strategies and potential pivots for the consideration of development and humanitarian actors, building on the good practices and bottlenecks experienced in the last few weeks on the ground.

The downloadable PDF version is available as http://bit.ly/covidpivot. 

cov1

Adapting Humanitarian & Development Operations for COVID-19 Response in the Philippines

Seven early-stage handles and potential pivots for the humanitarian and development sectors

Ivan Ledesma, Ica Fernandez, Nastassja Quijano, Miguel Dorotan, Abbey Pangilinan

UrbanisMO.ph

Note:  This was informed by context conditions in the Philippines and similar lessons from Myanmar. All opinions are the authors’ own and do not represent the institutions they may work with.

 

COVID-19 represents a challenge for the humanitarian and development sectors that was not in anyone’s work and financial plans. While some agencies are more geared than others towards so-called ‘adaptive programming’ and ‘thinking and working politically’ and have already deployed on the ground, the declaration of a National State of Calamity and the establishment of ‘enhanced community quarantine’ restrictions across Metro Manila, Luzon, and selected pockets across Visayas and Mindanao on 17 March 2020 poses a new set of restrictions that are likely to continue for the rest of the year until the global pandemic is curbed.

While the health sector should take the lead in COVID-19 response, flattening the curve”—keeping the infection growth rate down—and keeping the hospitals as the last line of defense entails a complex set of efforts across multiple sectors. It will involve community level initiatives such as social protection, water and sanitation, transportation and logistics, food security, manufacturing and supply chain innovation, data analytics, peace and security, and the fiscal and macroeconomic calibrations to maintain all of these operations in the midst of a global recession. 

More than anything else, COVID-19 magnifies existing weaknesses in our service delivery structures and amplifies humanitarian and development challenges that existed before the pandemic. 

Adjusting operating procedures to COVID-19 social distancing and mobility restrictions at global and local levels means that ‘parachuting’ in from donor capitals or extensive domestic air or land travel will no longer be possible.

Now that that mobility even for essential services is now largely limited at the level of the barangay and city, service deployment is now more area-based, and will entail hyperlocal investments and partnerships. Social distancing requires limiting large public gatherings such as workshops and distribution meetings. Even as meetings now pivot to Zoom and other online platforms, many of the communities that need most support have limited access to internet,  mobile phone signal, or traditional radio or TV coverage. This will be doubly challenging for communities with large internally displaced populations such as Lanao del Sur and Sulu in the BARMM, which have existing conflict-related checkpoints and lockdown restriction policies. 

As such, creativity and innovation in engaging and strengthening hyper-local expertise, assets, and relationship/supply chains will be a challenge, not least being able to do so in support of national and regional-level action plans led by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). 

The following suggests seven key strategies for the humanitarian and development community, including multilateral and bilateral donors, members of the Humanitarian Country Team and the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee, and INGOs and NGOs for the next few weeks of adjustments:

 

 

1. Adapt and reframe project goals of existing grant envelopes.

 

 

  • Pivoting operations to respond to COVID-19 means reviewing what ongoing projects and platforms can realistically change, adapt, or reformulate their goals, target outputs, and activities. Aid calendars for multiple countries have been pushed back as a result of the lockdowns. But even so, these pivots within existing portfolios must be done immediately, with the appropriate evidence-based review. 
  • For this to be useful, bilateral and multilateral donors will have to allow current and future implementing partners to revise Standard Operating Procedures regarding field work, which may in turn affect the pace and frequency of activities. Such revisions might include channeling of support to smaller subgrantee institutions and individuals with clear deliverables and more relaxed financial reporting requirements.

 

2. Focus on redesigning interventions for supporting the most vulnerable.

 

  • Although COVID-19 does not discriminate amongst those it infects, the severity and adverse effects of the virus and the various social measures taken to contain it disproportionately affect the poorest and most vulnerable communities. This specifically refers to the homeless, urban poor and informal settler families, the internally-displaced, daily wage earners, and other populations that are often uncounted in government databases and have limited access to water, sanitation, and basic health services. As we have discussed elsewhere, protecting these vulnerable communities means protecting everyone else. Governments all over the world are now deploying social amelioration/protection packages of emergency cash transfers, rent freezes, among others. In support of these efforts, bilateral and multilateral donors should encourage their implementing partners and subgrantees to prioritise and provide safety nets to target the most vulnerable communities and populations, complementing the government’s response. 
  • This also means that time and effort should be redirected in sharpening available data for targeting and decision-making, at the most localized spatial scales possible. A blanket approach in undertaking this crisis has proven to be ineffective and can be used to further widen the gap between those who can and cannot protect themselves from this crisis. 

 

3. Journey with national and local governments. 

 

  • The humanitarian and development community should work to complement the national, regional, and local governance and delivery structures put in place. In the Philippines, this means supporting the IATF-EID and the National Action Plan, filling in gaps, helping establish SOPs and coordination mechanisms across levels and workstreams, and supporting governments to do better. These tasks–which includes helping with analysis and process guidelines for targeting, delivery, coordination, and monitoring and evaluation–are traditional strengths of the development and humanitarian sectors.
  • Support should be directed towards strengthening community-based responses. Donors can also consider supporting existing local government structures whose administrative capacity will be stretched to the limit while implementing various expanded social programs of the national government. They might allocate certain funds to augment local staff or procure technologies (e.g. testing kits, hospital mechanical ventilators, aerosol boxes, open-source designs for PPE) to enhance the efficiency of delivery systems. Facilitating access and mobility for implementing partners and subgrantees will also be needed as restrictions are put in place.

 

 

4. Diversify partners portfolio – celebrate local and private initiatives.

 

  • The last two weeks have seen how small-scale, local, and private initiatives or loose collectives and coalitions, private individuals, and small organizations can mobilize quickly and effectively. From providing a platform for donations, amassing private sector support, to mapping of vulnerabilities, these small interventions have so far proved to be the most successful, given the ongoing context of lockdown, immobility, and access restrictions. With the burden of service delivery with municipal and city-level local governments, we have seen the rise of local leaders being able to innovate by delivering food to marginalized populations, instituting spacing queues, deploying rolling stores, and encouraging non-motorized transport such as bikes and scooters to complement government-established bus shuttle routes for frontliners. The most effective governance platforms have also been able to collaborate with the private sector for fundraising, emergency food pack and PPE donations, and encouraging manufacturers, clothing designers, and 3D printing fablabs to pivot and address urgent needs. 
  • To support this, bilateral and multilateral donors should widen their partnership portfolios and consider directly supporting local and private sector actors who have provided tangible results for the most in need. Arguably, with the paralysis of many larger development and humanitarian actors, supporting smaller organizations can cut through several layers of bureaucracy and inject assistance to where it is much needed. In order to partner with these organizations, relaxing selected procurement rules may be considered. This is also to ease the accelerated onset of private sector donor fatigue, as sustained cross-sectoral collaboration will be needed in the coming months. 

 

5. Institute workforce adaptation and adjust operational modalities.

 

  • Portfolio decisions and streamlining for COVID-19 readiness means that the workforces of implementing actors and subgrantees must also adapt accordingly. As these administrative and human resources (HR) related changes are happening, there is a need for flexibility and creativity in figuring out the best courses of action, whilst not leaving dependent populations (particularly in humanitarian response operations) without any lifeline. Such measures would include adopting remote management practices, mapping and engaging private sector service providers who have access to move to deliver basic social services (i.e. delivery of food kits through third-party freight companies instead of implementing partners’ logistics teams). In terms of HR support and lifeline, supporting implementing actors and their subgrantees by expanding their health coverage, specifically for potential COVID-19 exposure, would provide a certain level of security to the frontliners. 

 

6. Repurpose budgets and monitoring, evaluation, and learning mechanisms – ensure grant flexibility.

 

  • In many cases, approved budgets submitted by implementing partners and subgrantees  will require revision to address the COVID-19 response. Though actors will strive to do what they can, bilateral and multilateral donors’ support in handling these revisions with the utmost flexibility will be necessary. Additional top-up support in parallel to government financing may also be considered, if existing programs already target the vulnerable communities and current appropriations are not enough. These can be adjusted periodically based on available local and global evidence and good practice.
  • A good existing practice that can be applied in these times of emergency is the Fixed Obligation Grant (FOGs), where implementing partners can have more output oriented financial reporting with less stringent requirements. 

 

 

7. Acknowledge that adjustable project durations are necessary because a quick return to “Business as Usual” is unlikely.

 

  • Following portfolio-level reviews, adjusting project durations for implementing partners and subgrantees may also be required, including possible extensions. Extensions and adjustments should be based on supporting the most vulnerable populations. It should be acknowledged that some current developmental and humanitarian programming (for example, any activity that requires large physical gatherings of people such as trainings, community distributions, conferences) are not necessarily relevant and could pose more harm to communities if sustained.
  • Existing global evidence shows that it will take months to address this global crisis. Returning to ‘business as usual’ will be impossible. Donors and field actors alike will need to quickly pivot programming to those that would address emergency needs as well as future gaps and repercussions. Global changes in programming will likely require significant layoffs, changes, and suspension of other types of support, which should be properly and clearly communicated to both implementing partners and communities. The tolls of rapid organizational shifts notwithstanding, a massive sea change in how humanitarian and development institutions operate and collaborate is unavoidable.

 

The Need to #CovidPivot:

COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees, causing significant losses of life, disruption of social norms, and unprecedented shocks to the global economy. 

It also poses a direct challenge to all institutions and individuals working in the development and humanitarian sectors. It is clear that usual modalities of delivering aid and social services through the current system are no longer viable. This is particularly true in responding to the specific needs of the most vulnerable populations. The time to pivot and revolutionize the way we think, innovate, and serve, during this time is long past. We are playing catch up. And while many are constrained by working from home, many smaller, more localized initiatives led by local governments, the business sector, and citizen-led efforts are proving that with the right approach can still be impactful even during these challenging times. We ask the international development and humanitarian aid community to consider these seven key messages, and open up platforms for engagement, localisation, and quick action.

 

Pivoting in times of COVID19 is not optional.

 

 

 

The UrbanisMO Podcast Series 3: #COVID19PH AND THE CITY

Hello po, mga ka-quarantine! Something for your weekend listening pleasure!

As the Philippines faces the threat posed by the Covid-19 Global Pandemic, we feature three conversations covering different aspects of this challenge.

Episode 1 covers the implications of COVID-19 to the Philippine public health system with physicians and public health experts Dr. Miguel Dorotan and Dr. Lei Alfonso.

Episode 2 looks at the economic repercussions of COVID-19 with economist JC Punongbayan and geographer Mylene Hazel De Guzman.

Episode 3 listens to the experiences of communities on the ground with community leader Jai Catacio

Discussions were recorded via Zoom and Viber on 23 March 2020, while NCR and the whole of Luzon was a week into the enhanced community quarantine.

This podcast is brought to you by UrbanisMO.ph and Young Public Servants, with support from the British Embassy Manila and the Chevening Alumni Fund.

Thank you to historian Aaron Mallari for hosting these episodes!

URBANISMO PODCAST SERIES 3: Ang Pilipinas sa harap ng Pandaigdigang Pandemyang Covid-19

Habang nagpapatuloy ang pagharap ng Pilipinas sa hamong dala ng Pandaigdigang Pandemiyang Covid-19, layong himayin sa mga podcast na ito ang ilang aspekto ng krisis. Nakatuon ang tatlong podcast sa pagtalakay sa kalusugang pampublico at sistemang pangkalusugan kasama and mga doktor na sina Miguel Dorotan at Lei Alfonso; epektong pang-ekonomiya at ugnayang panlipunan kasama ang ekonomistang si JC Punongbayan at geographer na si Mylene Hazel De Guzman; at ang danas ng mga komunidad kasama ang lider ng isang samahan na si Jai Catacio. Kaalinsabay ng punyagi sa paghahanap ng makabuluhang pamamaraan sa pagharap sa multi-dimensyonal na krisis, hangad naming na palawakin ang talakayan at pakinggang ang iba-ibang tinig tungo sa mas malalim na kaunawaan sa mahirap na sitwasyon.

Naganap ang mga talakayan na ito noong 23 Marso 2020, lagpas isang linggo na mula nang maipatupad ang enhanced community quarantine sa buong NCR at Luzon.

 

In Metro Manila, Fighting COVID-19 Requires Helping the Poor—Now

Thank you to Sheila Coronel and PCIJ for helping us release this to a wider audience.  Also available on PCIJ.org with a shorter summary on Rappler.com.

In Metro Manila, Fighting COVID-19 Requires Helping the Poor—Now

Old methods of emergency response no longer apply

By Ica Fernandez and Abbey Pangilinan with inputs from Nastassja Quijano, Dr. Miguel Dorotan, Patricia Mariano, Benedict Nisperos, Zaxx Abraham, Clara Buenconsejo, David Garcia, and Mirick Paala. Maps by JR Dizon/Mapadatos 

UrbanisMO and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism 

 

 

A surge of COVID-19 cases is expected to hit Metro Manila in the coming weeks and the city is grossly unprepared.

Home to nearly 13 million, Metro Manila is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. Despite the government’s aggressive efforts to contain the pandemic by sealing off the capital and shutting down businesses and transport, the contagion is likely to spread and worsen. 

The hard facts

 Data scientists from the Asian Institute of Management estimated 26,000 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines by end-March. Many, if not most of these cases, will be in Metro Manila, which has accounted for more than half of the 636 recorded COVID-19 cases as of March 25. Most of the 38 recorded COVID-19 deaths were also in the capital. 

As the table below shows, there are not enough doctors and nurses to cope with the projected surge in cases. Moreover, most health care workers are employed in the private healthcare system, which caters to only about a third of the population. Nearly 70 percent of some 1,500 hospitals in the country are privately owned.

There is already a shortage of doctors and nurses. In a recent Senate hearing, Philippine General Hospital (PGH) Director Dr. Gerardo Legaspi said there should be at least 44 doctors, nurses, midwives, and medical technologists for every 10,000 Filipinos. The ratio is currently at 19 per 10,000.

Table 1. Distribution of Health Workers in Government Hospitals

Doctors Nurses Midwives Dentists
Philippines 10,447 30,368 16,610 1,812
Metro Manila 3,890 (37%) 8,161 (27%) 1,947 (12%) 599 (33%)

Source: DOH, 2018

To date, two major hospitals in Metro Manila, the Medical City and the University of Santo Tomas Hospital, have had to quarantine 674 exposed health workers. Four high-end private hospitals— St. Luke’s BGC and Quezon City, Makati Medical Center, and The Medical City in Pasig City—have now said that they are unable to attend any more COVID-19 cases. 

Equally worrisome, a recent Philippine College of Physicians survey revealed only 1,572 ventilators are available in the country, 423 of them in Metro Manila. Global estimates show that 3 to 5% of COVID-19 patients require mechanical ventilation, crowding out others like stroke and heart attack patients who need intensive care.

Even as the Department of the Interior and Local Government ordered local governments to set up isolation facilities for milder COVID-19 cases that do not require admission to hospitals, not all barangays have been able to comply. 

Flattening the curve”—keeping the infection growth rate down—and protecting hospital frontliners means keeping people at home so the virus doesn’t spread. While at home, people must be fed and their health and sanitation needs must be provided for right in the places where they live.

The COVID-19 battleground, therefore, is not just hospitals, but the poorest communities that lack the means to feed and protect themselves. Protecting these communities means protecting everyone else. 

The issues: Poverty and density

Metro Manila is one of the densest cities in the world, outstripping Delhi, Paris, or Tokyo. It  produces 70% of the country’s economic output and is the center of political, cultural, and economic life in Luzon. But it also has one of the largest concentrations of poverty.  Some 2.5 million of the city’s nearly 13 million residents live in slums, while 3.1 million are homeless. 

This map shows the poorest areas of the capital (the darker the color, the larger the percentage of poverty in the area) and their proximity to hospitals and COVID-19 cases. 

Map 1. NCR COVID Poverty POI 20200324Note: The poverty numbers in this map refer to the number of poor households in each barangay that have been identified through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, the government’s primary database of who and where the city’s poorest and neediest are. The numbers indicate families that have been targeted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development for social protection programs such as conditional cash transfers. These families are the poorest of the poor but their numbers do not include the homeless and the so-called “near-poor,” who are equally vulnerable.

In these poor communities, families are packed in small shanties with 4 to 6 children plus several  extended family members, including grandparents, sharing small spaces. Social distancing in these cramped places is difficult, if not impossible. 

The Issues: Access to health, sanitation, mobility and food security

 Even without COVID-19, poor living conditions trigger various health issues related to overcrowding and WASH (water and sanitation, hygiene), the most important factor in the spread of infections. This is particularly true for the elderly population and the young. 

The poor have limited access to health or other basic social services, like public transport. In dense settlements in major cities like Pasig, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Manila, looban communities deep in packed slums are accessible only by three-wheelers or habal-habal motorcycles that fit the narrow alleys.

Those with private vehicles are allowed to use them for urgent trips, but day laborers, frontline nurses, and poor dialysis patients reliant on public transport have been forced by the quarantine to walk for kilometers through multiple checkpoints. Everyone must now show a pass, whether one issued by the barangay government or the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).  This limits the ability of residents of poor communities to get food and urgent health care, making them more vulnerable to the spread of infection.

 All of these create situations we’ve already seen, like ailing grandparents from the city’s slums braving checkpoints and possibly contracting COVID-19, to get food and medicine; otherwise, their children and grandchildren will starve to death. Once infections are allowed to spread in these dense communities, it will be impossible to manage and contain.

 

Hot Spot: Quezon City 

Quezon City is the largest and most populous city in the Philippines, home to over 2.9 million people living in 175.33 square kilometers.

Its large land area eases overall population density pressure. Based on 2015 data, Quezon City’s population density is at 17,759 residents per square kilometer. In contrast, eight of the other 15 cities in the National Capital Region surpassed the region’s average population density of 20,785 persons per square kilometer.

Table 2. Most Densely Populated Cities of Metro Manila

Municipality Population Density
1. City of Manila 71,263 persons per km2
2. Mandaluyong City 41,580 persons per km2
3. Pasay City  29,815 persons per km2
4. Caloocan City  28,387 persons per km2
5. City of Navotas 27,904 persons per km2
6. City of Makati 27,010 persons per km2
7. City of Malabon 23,267 persons per km2
8. City of Marikina 20,945 persons per km2
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority, 2015

Although it is one of the least dense cities in Metro Manila, a 2015 analysis from the World Bank shows that more than a third of the total slums in the capital region can be found in Quezon City. The second ranking city, Taguig, hosts 10% of the total slum area of the region.

The largest clusters of the Quezon City slums are in Batasan Hills and Payatas, but informal settlements can be found in the borders of universities, beside affluent gated communities, and in the shadows of high-rise malls and high-end mixed-use developments, as in the case of Sitio San Roque. In these slums, daily-wage-dependent families do not always have access to water or soap. These families also do not have the luxury of space as they live in shanties too warm, packed, and uncomfortable to stay in for long periods of the day. This makes it impossible to follow the recommendations of the quarantine: social distancing of at least two meters between persons. 

As of March 23, 42 of Quezon City’s 142 barangays have COVID-19 cases. Of these, 12 are under “extreme enhanced community quarantine.”  

 

Table 3. Quezon City Barangays under Extreme Enhanced Community Quarantine

District Barangay
1 Maharlika
Ramon Magsaysay
San Isidro Labrador
2 Batasan Hills
Bagong Silangan
3 Masagana
4 Damayang Lagi
Kalusugan
Tatalon
*Central
6 Pasong Tamo
Source: Quezon City Government, March 23
Note: Brgy. Central has no COVID-19 cases as of March 23, but has been placed under extreme quarantine due to its proximity to major hospitals.

 

According to the health department, there are 66 hospitals within Quezon City’s borders; 15 are government owned and 51 are private. Only 20 are categorized as Level 3 hospitals that have intensive care units, with some 7,500 beds. 

Key hospitals serving COVID-19 cases include the Lung Center of the Philippines, which is one of the six hospitals in the country with testing capability and has dedicated one wing with 40 beds for COVID-19 patients; and the Philippine Heart Center, where over 20 health workers were exposed to the virus after a patient withheld travel information. 

As of March 23, at least six doctors at the Heart Center have tested positive. Three have already died. At least 3 COVID-19 cases in Quezon City, with one from a congested urban poor community,  have been sent home for lack of bedspace. Not all barangays have been able to set up isolation tents for the sick.   

Map 2. QC Poverty and Covid Cases 20200323
Map 3. QC Informality, Covid Cases Zoomed 20200323Note: The numbers of households in informal housing was calculated based on four variables from the 2010 census. First, we calculated the households who enjoy (a) rent-free occupation with consent of owner; and (b) rent-free without consent of owner. We then filtered those numbers based on the type of housing, specifically homes where (c) floor area is less than 5 square meters, and (d) whose outer walls are constructed of wood and other light materials.

 

The Department of Transportation and Office of the Vice President are running free bus services to bring health workers to hospitals, but many frontline workers live in different cities or have no access to “last-mile” transportation that can connect them from the pickup or transfer stations and back to their homes. Many nurses and other frontline medical personnel are forced to walk to work. A few have been able to obtain bicycles. 

The maps also show locations of supermarkets and groceries, including major “bagsakan”’ consolidation markets like NEPA QMart and Balintawak Market. In the coming weeks, the lack of transport could endanger the food supply if produce deliveries are unable to enter the capital and if markets cannot operate at full capacity because their workers cannot report to work. 

Farms and factories suffer from the same restrictions. Farmers from Cordillera, Laguna, Nueva Ecija, Cabanatuan, and Marinduque have taken to social media to warn that thousands of tons of produce are going to waste due to transport restrictions and the lack of markets to purchase the food.

 

 

What can be done—now!

 We cannot arrest the contagion without coordinated efforts to address the problems of poverty, mobility, and food security among the poorest and neediest. 

With the signing of Republic Act No. 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act on March 24, the Executive Branch now has enhanced powers for the next three months to stem the tide of COVID-19 across the country. 

For this to be effective, the national government needs to work with local governments, the private sector, and everyday citizens. 

The first two weeks of the enhanced community quarantine have seen the private sector stepping up to provide assistance to frontliners and vulnerable communities. Big brands are donating their advertising budgets and securing support for their staff and suppliers. Private companies and citizens have begun to pledge support to fundraising initiatives. 

These initiatives are also partnering with community-based organizations such as Caritas Manila and Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pantawid Pamilya (SNPP) to reach families sorely affected by the lockdown. 

Everyday citizens, including students, restaurant owners, and vendors alike, are donating what they can, including time, food, and bicycles for frontline workers. Citizen information drives such as @CureCovidPH and #PHCAN are now preparing information materials in vernacular languages for community use.

Many local government units have also begun distributing food packs to their barangays and have tapped into their Quick Response Funds to produce more in the coming weeks. But these efforts are not enough. 

Old methods of emergency response no longer apply under the conditions of COVID-19. The checkpoints and other mobility restrictions mean that all efforts must be hyper localized, building on human resources and social capital within these respective cities for months to come.

 

These efforts should focus on:

 

1. Finding ways to increase community access to water and basic sanitation, particularly with increasing water shortages across the Philippines. Provide soap, hygiene kits, masks, and other basic supplies particularly in dense, deprived, and informal settlements across different cities. 

    • Organize water rationing with the help of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Red Cross and other local volunteer organizations with water tanks.
    • Continue regular garbage collection and ramp up sanitation efforts across cities.
    • Set up sinks and handwashing stations in strategic common areas.
    • Repurpose clear plastic sheeting to serve as droplet shields for storefronts and other high-traffic areas.
    • Prepare methods for social distancing, quarantine, and care that uses the household and not the individual as the unit of care.

 2. Providing support to the poorest families. Specifically, the civilian bureaucracy led by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation,  Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment, together with the Department of Transportation should  implement, expand, and augment the existing social welfare programs to assist the affected labor force, marginalized, and other vulnerable sectors. Some of these programs include:

    • Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT) for homeless street families, and Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT)  under DSWD. However, packages for families not included in Listahanan must also be considered.
    • PhilHealth, where coverage of  all costs should be increased to include testing, consultation and hospitalisation related to COVID-19.
    • Pantawid Pasada (DOTR/LTFRB), which should be expanded to also cover other affected sectors such as tricycle, jeepney, bus, AUV, and taxi drivers
    • TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged /Displaced Workers) under the Department of Labor and Employment

 3. Ensuring food security during the duration of the enhanced community quarantine

  • The IATF-EID, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Trade and Industry must ensure that the strict quarantine guidelines will not disrupt the food supply chain. The DA assured the public that there is enough food for everyone. However, despite clear statements from national government that the delivery of food, agricultural products, and essential commodities should remain unimpeded, this has not been clearly applied across all local government units, many of which have installed their own checkpoints with varying interpretations of the rules established by the IATF-EID.
  • Local government units must start innovating in order to ensure that the people will have access to basic food necessities. Pasig City is presently implementing mobile markets to bring food closer to where people are, as is the  Lanao del Sur provincial government. Mandaluyong is including fruits and vegetables in their food packs, while Baguio and Laguna are distributing vegetable seeds for ‘survival gardens’.

3. Ensuring that daily wage earners are not forced to leave their homes to feed their families by providing food aid and other incentives for the duration of the lockdown. The government must collaborate with private sector employers to assuage fears that they will lose their jobs if they are unable to physically report for work.

 4. Supporting the mobility of frontline services and health workers, and ensuring that even citizens without private vehicles will have unimpeded access to health facilities, particularly those who are pregnant, undergoing dialysis or radiation, and in need of other essential health services. Options such as sanitized buses and bicycles can be provided for frontline workers.To the extent possible, provide options for temporary housing for front liners by coordinating with real estate developers, schools, and dormitories. Above all, efforts should be made to ensure that the implementation of checkpoint protocols are done in a humane, respectful, and non-arbitrary fashion, putting the health and safety of citizens first. 

5. Supporting the health sector and local scientists to ramp up free testing capability across the Philippines, including for the poorest of the poor. With the absence of adequate laboratory facilities and trained personnel across the country, some of the P27.1-billion package released by the Department of Finance should be channeled towards innovative solutions for addressing testing and the logistics thereof.

6. Sharing accurate and timely information both at the national and grassroots level, iand in local languages and channels. Consolidate communication channels for clear messaging and information dissemination and take advantage of existing communication platforms such as the government’s text alarms to provide more useful information, not just brief regular reminders to the public. Data sharing of anonymized information to protect patient privacy can also help in scientific and policy work in the long run.

7. Encouraging businesses to support the above mentioned efforts and coordinate with the government to create a singular, streamlined response.

8. Extending the deadline of tax collection in consideration of the logistical hurdles posed by the quarantine, and call on banks, businesses, and property owners to extend and/ or defer deadlines of bill and rental payments.

 

While these measures are focused on the experience of Metro Manila, quarantined communities in the rest of Luzon and in Visayas and Mindanao must also take steps to support the poorest and most vulnerable. 

 

[Note: This is a popular version of a longer paper prepared by members of UrbanisMO, a group of urban planners and development professionals, in cooperation with the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. The papers in English and Tagalog are available on urbanismo.ph, facebook.com/urbanismoph, and twitter.com/urbanismodotph. A podcast on COVID-19 and urban poor communities will be released by UrbanisMO and Young Public Servants later this week.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MAHIRAP MAGING MAHIRAP, NAKAMAMATAY

MAHIRAP MAGING MAHIRAP, NAKAMAMATAY:

Panawagan sa lahat ng antas ng pamahalaan at mga mamamayan na tugunan ang pangangailangan ng mga maralitang komunidad sa panahon ng pandemikong COVID-19

 

Pinaaalahanan ang lahat ng tao na ugaliing maghugas ng mga kamay at manatili sa kanilang mga tahanan para maiwasan ang lalong pagkalat ng sakit na COVID-19. Pero paano ito magagawa kapag wala kang tubig, pagkain, pera, o tirahan? 

Isa itong malaking kakulangan sa mga hakbang ng pambansa at lokal na pamahalaan sa kanilang pagtugon sa pandemiko. Mula sa naunang ‘enhanced community quarantine’, nagkaroon na ng pagkakataong pagbutihin ang mga hakbang ng pamahalaan sa ikalawang bersyon nila ng ‘enhanced community quarantine,’ ngunit patuloy na napababayaan ang kapakanan at kaligtasan ng pinakamahirap na mga mamamayan. Habang patuloy na isinasaisang-tabi ang pangangailangan ng mahihirap, nakapipinsala ang patuloy na pagpapatupad ng mababaw at insensitibong lockdown. Lalo lang nitong napapalalim ang hindi pagkakapantay-pantay at kawalan ng hustisya sa lipunan, pinaiigting ang kahirapan at kagutuman, at pinalalala ang pangkalusugang panganib sa buong populasyon.

Napakabigat na ng pasanin ng mga maralitang komunidad, at mayroon pang isang buwan bago matapos ang lockdown. Hindi pwedeng isawalang-bahala ang problemang ito.

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Noong Marso 17, 2020 idineklara ng pamahalaang pambansa ang National State of Calamity para maibsan ang paglaganap ng COVID-19. Inilagay ang Metro Manila at ang buong Luzon sa “enhanced community quarantine.” Pinagbawalan ang mga tao na lumabas ng kanilang mga bahay. Ang pagbiyahe ng lahat ng uri ng pampublikong transportasyon, mula MRT, bus, at maging mga tricycle, ay suspendido. Inatasan ang militar at pulisya na bantayan ang mga checkpoint sa lahat ng pangunahing mga daanan. Kahalintulad ang lockdown na ito sa ginawa sa China at iba pang mga bansang apektado ng COVID-19. Layunin ng lockdown na mabawasan ang dami ng mahahawa para maagapan pa ito ng mga hospital ng bansa. Noong Marso 19, 193 na kumpirmadong kaso na n COVID-19 ang naitalaga sa bansa. Ayon isang sa pag-aaral ng mga eksperto sa Asian Institute of Management, tinatayang 26,000 na Pilipino ang mahahawa sa COVID-19 sa katapusan ng Marso kung hindi mapipigilan ang pagkalat nito.

Mahalaga ang “social distancing” ngunit kapuna-puna kung paano kinikulingan ng mga pangkalusugang polisiya ang mayayaman at makapangyarihan– nauuunang magpa-test sa COVID-19 ang mga pulitiko at artista, kahit na taliwas ito sa patakaran ng DOH. Mahal din ang pagproseso ng mga test sa mga pribadong hospital (libre ang mismong testing kit). Pinahihintulutan ang mga pribadong sasakyan na byumahe sa Maynila habang napipilitan ang mga arawan na manggagawa at pasyente ng dialysis na maglakad ng ilang kilometro at dumaan sa maraming mga checkpoint. Naaresto na ang ilang mga taong walang tirahan. Mayroon pa ngang viral video ng lalaki na naninirahan na lang sa may Roxas Boulevard at nagmamakaawa na isipin din sila ng pamahalaan lalo na sa ganitong panahon. Aniya, walang puso para sa mahihirap ang mga patakaran ng gobyerno. Suot ang maruming mask at nakatingin direkta sa kamera, sinabi niyang “kinalimutan na kami ng gobyerno.”

covidtag2

Gaano kalawak at kalalim ang problemang ito? Isa ang Metro Manila sa pinakamasikip at mataong lunsod sa buong mundo. Mas maraming naninirahan sa Metro Manila kaysa sa Delhi sa India, Paris sa Pransya, o Tokyo sa Japan. Ito ang sentro ng pulitikal, kultural, at pangekonomiya ng buong Luzon. Halos 70% ng output ng ekonomiya ng bansa ay galing sa Luzon. Tinatayang 12.8 milyon ang kabuoang populasyon ng Metro Manila, ngunit umaabot ito ng mahigit 15 milyon sa umaga dahil sa pagpasok ng mga manggagawa mula sa ibang lunsod. Kung titingnan ang kabuoang populasyon na umaasa ng kanilang kabuhayan sa Metro Manila, masasama ang mga karatig na lunsod at aabot sa 21.3 milyon na tao ang nakadepende sa Metro Manila. Tinataya namang 2.5 milyon na tao sa Metro Manila ay nakatira sa mga impormal na komunidad, habang 3.1 milyon naman ay walang matirhan. Ayon sa opisyal na datos ng National Household Targeting System ng DSWD, mayroong 15.1 milyon na mahihirap na pamilya sa buong Pilipinas, at 300,000 noon ay nasa Metro Manila. Ang karaniwang mahirap na pamilya ay mayroong 5 hanggang 6 na miyembro. 

Ang mga manggagawa mula sa ibang lunsod na nagtatrabaho sa Metro Manila ay ang pinaka-apektado ng mga checkpoint sa mga hangganan ng Metro Manila. Sa NCR, maraming tao ang naninirahan at naghahanap-buhay sa mga karatig na lunsod– lahat ng ito ay apektado ng pagsuspinde ng pampublikong mga sasakyan. Tinataya ng JICA na halos 88% ng mga commuter ay walang pribadong sasakyan. Napakaraming mga mamamayan ang nabubuhay ng isang kahig, isang tuka, at napipilitang ilagay ang sarili sa panganib ng pagkahawa para lang matugunan ang pangaraw-araw na pangangailangan ng kanilang mga pamilya dahil sa mga no-work, no-pay na pulisiya. Makikita sa Figure 1 at 2 ang mapa ng opisyal na bilang ng kahirapan at kawalan ng hirahan sa National Capital Region. 

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Source: DSWD Listahanan 2017, DOH 2020 from UNRI, Mapadatos (JR Dizon)
covidtag4
Source: PSA CPH 2010, DOH 2020 from UPRI, MapaDatos (JR Dizon)
Pansinin: Ipinapakita sa mapa ang kawalang-katiyakan ng tirahan gamit ang mga pamantayan ng Philippine Census of Population and Housing (2010). Makikita rito ang mga pamamahay na (1) pinahihintulutan ng may-ari tumira sa lupa nang walang binabayarang renta, at (2) nakatira sa lupa ngunit hindi nagbabayad ng renta pero tutol dito ang may-ari. Base sa dalawang kategorya na ito, lalo pang sininsin ang datos para maipakita ang uri ng mga tirahan, lalo na ang mga (3) tirahan na kulang sa limang pulgada ang lawak at (4) mga bahay na gawa sa kahoy at iba pang magaan na materyales ang mga pader. 

 

Ang mga pamilyang naninirahan sa mga maralitang komunidad ay madalas nakararanas din ng pagbaha, demolisyon, at sunog. Sila rin ang hirap makakuha ng mga batayang serbisyo sa kalusugan at tulong pinansyal. Madalas sa masusukal na komunidad sa malalaking mga lunsod ng Pasig, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, at Maynila, karaniwang maaabot lang ito sa pamamagitan ng tricycle o habal-habal. 

Mahirap mabuhay nang mahirap. Karaniwan malalaki ang mga pamilya sa maralitang komunidad. 3-5 ang dami ng mga anak nila at dagdag pa rito ang ibang mga kamag-anak at mga lolo at lola na nakatira sa iisang bubong. Madalas, iisa lang din ang kumikita sa mga pamilyang ito. Sa kanilang masisikip na tirahan, imposible ang “social distancing.” Kahit noong wala pang kumakalat na COVID-19, hindi maayos ang kundisyon sa kanilang mga tirahan at madali kumalat ang sakit, lalo na sa matatanda at mga bata. Ito ay pangaraw-araw na realidad ng karamihan ng ating mga kapwa Pilipino.

covidtag5

Source: DSWD Listahanan 2017, DOH 2020 from UNRI, Mapadatos

 

Ang patong-patong na pasakit ng lunsod ang siyang nagtutulak para maglakad ang mga lola na may sakit sa ilang checkpoint at ilagay ang sarili sa paganib na mahawa ng COVID-19 para matiyak na may kakainin ang kanilang mga apo. Sa oras na mapabayaang kumalat ang COVID-19 sa masusukal na maralitang komunidad, mas mahirap na itong agapan at pigilan. 

Ano ngayon ang maaari nating gawin? 

Nananawagan kami sa mga kasapi ng National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, pamahalaang lokal, mga organisasyon ng pribadong sektor, at karaniwang mamamayan na gawing mas makatao ang pagpapatupad ng Proclamation No. 929, Declaring a State of Calamity Throughout the Philippines Due to Corona Virus Disease 2019 para matugunan ang mga pangangailangan ng pinakamahirap nating mga kababayan. Para mangyari ito, kailangan natin: 

 

  1. Magkaroon ng maayos na akses ang lahat ng komunidad sa tubig para matugunan ang kanilang pangangailangan na maglinis ng kanilang mga katawan at kapaligiran. Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang kakapusan sa tubig sa pahahon ng pandemiko. Makapagbigay ng sabon, hygiene kit, masks, at iba pang batayang pangangailangan lalo na sa mga masusukal at maralitang mga komunidad.
    • Maaaring mag-organisa ng pagrarasyon ng tubig sa tulong ng Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Red Cross, at iba pang lokal na mga organisasyon na mayroong mga water tank
    • Ipagpatuloy ang regular na pangongolekta ng basura at paigtingin pa ang mga hakbang para panatilihig malinis ang lunsod
  2. Magbigay ng ayuda sa pinakamahirap na mga pamilya. Partikular, tinatawagan namin ang civilian bureaucracy na pinamumunuan ng Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Labor and Employment, at Department of Transportation na magpatupad ng mga serbisyo na makakatulong sa apektadong mga manggagawa at iba pang sektor. Ilan sa mga programang ito ay:
    • Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT) para sa mga pamilyang walang matirhan, at Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT)
    • PhilHealth, na dapat magtaas ng kakayahang matustusan ang mga gastusin na may kinalaman sa COVID-19, kabilang na ang testing, konsultasyon, at pagpapahospital
    • Pantawid Pasada (DOTR/LTFRB), na dapat palawakin lalo para matugunan din ang mga pangangailangan ng mga driver ng tricycle, jeepney, bus, AUV, at taxi
    • TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged /Displaced Workers) sa ilalim ng Department of Labor and Employment
  3. Tiyakin na hindi mapipilitan ang mga arawang manggagawa na lumabas ng kanilang mga tahanan para matiyak ang mga pangangailangan ng kanilang mga pamilya. Para mangyari ito, kailangan mabigyan ng pagkain at iba pang insentibo sa mga apektadong pamilya sa kahabaan ng lockdown. Kailangan makipagtulungan ng gobyerno at ng pribadong sektor para mawala ang pangamba ng mga manggagawa na matatanggal sila sa trabaho kung hindi sila papasok.
  4. Suportahan ang pagbiyahe at pagkilos ng mga frontline services at health workers, at siguraduhin na maaari ring makakilos ang mga mamamayan na walang pribadong sasakan para makapunta sila sa hospital. Lalo na ang mga buntis, mga nagpapa-diyalisis at radiation, at lahat ng nangangailangan makatanggap ng mahalagang serbisyong pangkalusugan. Maaaring magpabiyahe ng mga sanitized o nililis na mga bus at bisikleta para sa mga frontline workers. Kung maaari, mahalagang mabigyan din ng pansamantalang tirahan ang mga mangagawang front liners sa pakikipagtulungan sa mga real estate developers, mga paaralan, at mga dormitoryo. Higit sa lahat, mahalagang maipatupad ang mga protokol sa checkpoint sa makatao, magalang, at pantay-pantay na paraan, kung saan prioridad ang kalusugan at kaligtasan ng lahat ng mamamayan.
  5. Suportahan ang pangkalusugang sektor at mga siyentista para mapabilis at mapadami ang kakayahang mag-test ng COVID-19 sa buong Pilipinas, lalo na sa mga mahihirap na komunidad. Habang wala pang sapat na mga laboratoryo, pasilidad, at mga tauhan na may sapat na training sa bansa, dapat ibigay ang bahagi ng PHP 27.1-billion package na ipinalabas ng Department of Finance tungo sa paghahanap ng mga solusyon para matugunan ang problema ng pag-test.
  6. Magbahagi ng tama at napapanahong impormasyon sa buong bansa, kabilang ang mga maralitang komunidad sa paraang bukas at hindi namumulitika. Gumamit ng lokal na ma wika at makamasang plataporma. Pagsamahin at pag-isahin ang mga paraan ng komunikasyon para malinaw ang mensahe at pagpapakalat ng impormasyon. Gamitin ang mga plataporma ng komunikasyon tulad ng NTC text alarm para makapagbigay ng mahalagang impormasyon, at hindi lamang maiikling paalala sa publiko. Dapat magbahagi ng datos ang iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno gamit ang mga pormang ito para matulungan din ang trabahong siyentipiko at pang-polisiya sa hinaharap.
  7. Hikayatin ang mga negosyo na suportahan ang mga nabanggit na hakbang at makipag-usap sa pamahalaan para makalikha ng nagkakaisang tugon sa panahon na ito.
  8. Bigyan ng palugit ang deadline ng tax collection na nagsasaalang-alang ng mga hamon na dala na rin ng quarantine, at makipag-ugnayan sa mga bangko, negosyo, at mga may-ari ng mga bahay para mabigyan ng eksensyon ang mga bayarin.

covidtag6

Ang mga mungkahi sa panawagan na ito ay nakasentro sa karanasan ng Metro Manila, pero inaanyayahan namin ang pambansa at lokal na pamahalaan ng mga naka-quarantine na komunidad ng Luzon, Visayas, at Mindanao na tiyakin kasama ang kalagayan ng pinakamahirap nating mga kababayan sa mga polisiyang ipinapatupad. 

Nasa kasaysayan na ng pagpaplano ng pamamalakad sa Pilipinas ang mga hakbang na kolokyal, nakakiling sa iilan, at pahirap sa kalakhang masang Pilpino. Lalo lamang nitong napapalalim ang pagkakaiba ng mayayaman at mahihirap. Ito na ang panahon para tingnan natin ang ating mga lunsod at komunidad na hinubong ng hindi pagkakapantay-pantay. Dinidikta ng lunsod kung sino lamang ang may kakayanan matugunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan, at sino ang patuloy na maghihirap. Malaki ang pagkakaiba ng realidad ng mga taong may kakayanan na kumportableng manatili sa kanilang mga bahay at sino ang kailangan maglakad ng ilang oras para maghanap-buhay at mapangalagaan ang kanilang mga pamilya araw-araw. 

Bilang mga development worker at practitioner na middle-class, kailangan nating maging magtulungan. Ito ang pagkakataon na wasakin ang mga pader na naghihiwalay sa atin at mapangalagaan ang kapakanan ang ating mga kababayan. 

Nakikiisa,

The UrbanisMO.ph community

www.urbanismo.ph

Bilang kolektibo ng mga propesyunal mula sa iba’t ibang mga larangan ng urban at regional planning at local economic development, hinahandog namin ang aming serbisyo nang libre. Kung mayroong mga local government units (LGU) na nangangailangan ng technical assistance in sa pagbuo ng tulong para sa kanilang mga mamamayan, padalhan lamang kami ng mensahe sa urbanismoph@protonmail.com.

UrbanisMOwhitebg (1)

 

MAHIRAP MAGING MAHIRAP, NAKAMAMATAY

MAHIRAP MAGING MAHIRAP, NAKAMAMATAY:

A call for national, regional, and city governments and everyday citizens to address the impact of COVID-19 on poor communities

 

People are being told to wash our hands and stay at home to prevent the spread of COVID-19. But what happens if you have no water, no food, no money, or no home?

There is a major gap in national and local government approaches to addressing the pandemic. Now on its second iteration of what is being called an ‘enhanced community quarantine’, this government has still extensively failed to factor in the needs of the poor. Without factoring the needs of the poorest and the most vulnerable, continuing to implement short-sighted and insensitive lockdown policies will deepen existing community inequalities, drive poverty and hunger, and magnify the health risks to the entire population. 

With approximately one month to go in this enhanced community quarantine, this gap must be addressed urgently.

covid1

On 17 March 2020, the Philippine Government declared a National State of Calamity to stem the spread of COVID-19, putting Metro Manila and the whole of Luzon in enhanced community quarantine’. People are now restricted to their homes. All modes of public transportation ranging from the MRT to buses and tricycles have been suspended, with the military and police instructed to man checkpoints across major thoroughfares. Similar to lockdowns instituted in China and affected countries globally, these measures are intended to ‘flatten the curve’, or lessen the rate of infection and transmission to a level that can be handled by the country’s health system. As of March 19, 193 confirmed cases in the country have been recorded. A recent model run by data scientists at the Asian Institute of Management projects an estimated 26,000 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines by end-March if community spread is not contained.

While it is universally agreed that ‘social distancing’ measures are paramount, netizens have criticized how policies have prioritized the rich and powerful: politicians and celebrities are the first to be tested despite the DOH algorithm; testing in posh private hospitals costs PHP 9,000  to process (the kit itself is free). Private vehicles are allowed, but day laborers and dialysis patients alike have been forced to walk for kilometers through multiple checkpoints. Homeless people on the street have been arrested. A viral video of a homeless man on what appears to be the Roxas Boulevard boardwalk asking the government to also think about them in times like this best sums up how current policies are anti-poor. Speaking through a used dirty mask, he stares at the camera, saying, “kinalimutan na kami ng gobyerno (we have been forgotten by government).”

covid2

But how bad is the problem, at scale?  Metro Manila is one of the densest urban agglomerations in the world, outstripping other major capitals such as Delhi, Paris, or Tokyo. It anchors political, cultural, and economic life on the island-region of Luzon, which contributes to up to 70% of the country’s economic output. Metro Manila’s official population data is estimated at 12.8 million but swells to a daytime population of about 15 million, while servicing a broader catchment area of up to 21.3 million. An estimated 2.5 million people in Metro Manila live in slums, while 3.1 million are homeless. Official government data from the National Household Targeting System of the DSWD shows that there are 15.1 million poor households nationwide, and approximately 300,000 in Metro Manila. An average poor household has 5 to 6 members. 

These daytime workers are the men and women who have been stuck at the checkpoints and borders north, east, and south of Metro Manila. Even within NCR, many people live and work in different component cities–all of whom are affected by the suspension of mass transit. JICA data estimates that at least 88% of commuters do not have private vehicles. A sizeable number of citizens live hand-to-mouth, or are forced to risk their lives daily with no-work, no-pay policies. Figures 1 and 2 below map out official statistics on poverty and housing informality in the National Capital Region. Figure 1 is based on the magnitude of poor households in Metro Manila from the dataset provided by the National Household Targeting System of the DSWD. 

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Source: DSWD Listahanan 2017, DOH 2020 from UNRI, Mapadatos (JR Dizon)

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Source: PSA CPH 2010, DOH 2020 from UPRI, MapaDatos (JR Dizon)
Note:  Informality was reflected using four variables from the Philippine Census of Population and Housing (2010), beginning with households who enjoy (1) rent-free occupation with consent of owner; and (2) rent-free without consent of owner. Based on the two categories, the result was filtered based on the type of housing, specifically homes where (3) floor area is less than 5 square meters, and whose outer walls are (4) constructed of wood and other light materials.

The families in these poor, deprived, and informal settlement communities described in the maps are often the same areas that are highly vulnerable to flooding, and have limited access to health or other basic social services. In dense settlements in major cities such as Pasig, Mandaluyong, Quezon City, and Manila, the only ways to access these communities is often by tricycle or habal habal-motorcycles. 

The basic demography of poor families living in the city is in itself a vulnerability. Poor families are often large, with an average of 3-5 children and with extended family members including grandparents living under the same roof. In most cases, poor families are also single income households, with the head of household serving as the sole and primary breadwinner. In these cramped spaces, ‘social distancing’ is impossible. Even without COVID-19, these poor living conditions also trigger various health issues related to overcrowding and WASH (water and sanitation, hygiene) the most important factor in the spread of the disease.  This holds especially true for the elderly population and the children, as this is just another layer to the risks they have to live with on a daily basis. 

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Source: DSWD Listahanan 2017, DOH 2020 from UNRI, MapaDatos (JR Dizon)

 

All of this creates situations where ailing grandparents from our city’s slums will choose to walk through checkpoints and possibly contract COVID-19, rather than letting their children and grandchildren starve to death. Once infections are allowed to spread in these dense communities, it will be impossible to manage and contain. 

So what can we do, together?

We call on the members of the Interagency Task Force and the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, local governments, private sector organizations, and everyday citizens to help make the implementation of Proclamation No. 929, Declaring a State of Calamity Throughout the Philippines Due to Corona Virus Disease 2019 more inclusive and sensitive to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable. To do this, we must:

  1. Find ways to increase community access to water and basic sanitation, particularly with increasing water shortages across the Philippines. Provide soap, hygiene kits, masks, and other basic supplies particularly in dense, deprived, and informal settlements across different cities. 
    • Water rationing with the help of the Bureau of Fire Protection, Philippine Red Cross and other local organizations with water tanks can be organized.
    • Continue regular garbage collection and ramp up sanitation efforts across cities
  2. Provide social protection support to the poorest families. Specifically, we call on the civilian bureaucracy led by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation,  Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Labor and Employment, together with the Department of Transportation to implement, expand, and augment the existing social welfare programs to assist the affected labor force, marginalized, and other vulnerable sectors. Some of these programs include:
    • Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Modified Conditional Cash Transfer Program (MCCT) for homeless street families, and Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT)  under DSWD
    • PhilHealth, where coverage of  all costs should be increased to include testing, consultation and hospitalisation related to COVID-19.
    • Pantawid Pasada (DOTR/LTFRB), which should be expanded to also cover other affected sectors such as tricycle, jeepney, bus, AUV, and taxi drivers
    • TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged /Displaced Workers) under the Department of Labor and Employment
  3. Ensure that daily wage earners are not forced to leave their homes to feed their families by providing food aid and other incentives for the duration of the lockdown. The government must collaborate with private sector employers to assuage fears that they will lose their jobs if they are unable to physically report for work.
  4. Support the mobility of frontline services and health workers, and ensure that even citizens without private vehicles will have unimpeded access to health facilities, particularly those who are pregnant, undergoing dialysis or radiation, and in need of other essential health services. Options such as sanitized buses and bicycles can be provided for frontline workers.To the extent possible, provide options for temporary housing for front liners by coordinating with real estate developers, schools, and dormitories. Above all, efforts should be made to ensure that the implementation of checkpoint protocols are done in a humane, respectful, and non-arbitrary fashion, putting the health and safety of citizens first. 
  5. Support the health sector and local scientists to ramp up free testing capability across the Philippines, including for the poorest of the poor. With the absence of adequate laboratory facilities and trained personnel across the country, some of the PHP 27.1-billion package released by the Department of Finance should be channeled towards innovative solutions for addressing testing and the logistics thereof.
  6. Share accurate and timely information both at the national at grassroots level, in open, anonymized, and high-resolution formats; local languages and channels. Consolidate communication channels for clear messaging and information dissemination and take advantage of existing communication platforms such as the NTC text alarms to provide more useful information, not just brief regular reminders to the public. Data sharing between government agencies using such formats can also help in scientific and policy work in the long run.
  7. Encourage businesses to support the above mentioned efforts and coordinate with the government to create a singular, streamlined response.
  8. Extend the deadline of tax collection in consideration of the logistical hurdles posed by the quarantine, and call on banks, businesses, and property owners to extend and/ or defer deadlines of bill payments. 

covid6

While the evidence described in this call is focused on the experience of Metro Manila, we encourage national and local leaders in quarantined communities in the rest of Luzon and in Visayas and Mindanao to ensure that all policies support the poorest and most vulnerable of our neighbors.

Planning in the Philippines has historically been informed by colonial, extractive, and punitive perspectives that deepen class divides. This is an opportunity to take a hard look at how our cities and neighborhoods have been shaped by spatial inequalities that dictate who has access to resources and who does not, and who can comfortably watch Netflix from behind gated communities while others must walk for hours to find enough money to eat for the day.

As middle-class development workers and practitioners, we must do better. This is a chance to break down the walls and take care of our neighbors and each other.  

 

In solidarity,

The UrbanisMO.ph community

www.urbanismo.ph

 

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As a loose collective of professionals working in various fields linked to urban and regional planning and local economic development, we offer our help for free. If there are local government units (LGU) who would need technical assistance in thinking through packages for their constituents, kindly send us a message at urbanismoph@protonmail.com.

UrbanisMO Phase 1: Balik-Tanaw

Last Saturday we closed out the first chapter of UrbanisMO with a brief sensing workshop to review what we’ve organically achieved with this experiment, and where we might want to take it in the future.

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Despite this being something that we all do in our spare time, the initiative somehow spawned fourteen (14!) different activities across our multiple interests of inclusive mobility and transport, zero-waste management, peace and security, health and social welfare etc between February 2018 to June 2019. These things would not be possible though without the collaboration of partners as wide-ranging as Arkitektura, the Escolta community, the City Government of Pasig, the Provincial Government of Lanao del, Sur, Disgruntled Young Professionals (DYP), Effective Altruism Philippines, Likha Initiative, Young Focus Foundation, Limitless Labs, as well as the many individuals and community members who agreed to jam with us.

Schedule Event
February 2018 UrbanisMO Rockwell
April 2018 UrbanisMO Escolta
May 2018 UrbanisMO Podcast #1
August 2018 Makisawsaw: Condiment Making Workshop in Support of Nutriasia Strikers
September 2018 Ecobrick Workshops
December 2018 Food Security and the City (Podcast #2)
February 2019 UrbanisMO : Bike Any Means Necessary (Podcast #3)
March 2019 UrbanisMO: Health and Cities (Podcast #4)
March 2019 Lanao del Sur PDPFP Technical Workshop, Marawi City
March 2019 UrbanisMO X DYP X Sandata x Lente – Cities in the Time of the Drug War
March 2019 UrbanisMO X DYP – It’s Tubig A Problem
March 2019 UrbanisMO x Effective Altruism: How Do We Know If We’re Helping Effectively?
May 2019 UrbanisMO Zero Waste –  Sitio Anahaw (with Likha Initiative)
June 2019 UrbanisMO Zero Waste – Happyland Tondo (with Young Focus Foundation and Limitless Lab)

The next stage though demands a shift from these experimental, output-based prototypes into something ideally more outcome-directed and scale-able. Given how sparse the current urbanism-directed ecosystem is right now in the Philippines, there’s so much space for innovation, but so much more that needs to be done despite limited time, energy, and resources. 🙂

Abangan ang susunod na kabanata. 🙂