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Philippine vice president criticizes Covid-19 aid efforts

Leni Robredo questions transparency following complaints very few poor people had received any govt help

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Philippine vice president criticizes Covid-19 aid efforts

A slum area of Manila is seen in this file photo. Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo has criticized efforts to provide poor people with aid during the Covid-19 outbreak, saying more transparency is needed. (Photo: Noel Celis/AFP)

Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo has appealed to the country’s Social Welfare Department to adopt a more transparent system in distributing goods and cash aid across cities and local communities amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Transparency and better coordination between central government and local authorities are key for speeding up and providing an efficient way of helping the poor during the crisis, she said.

She was responding to complaints that very little government aid had reached those most in need of it.

“Maybe it would help everyone that the list [of beneficiaries] be made public so that people will know whether or not they will receive the aid and they won’t blame local leaders,” Robredo said on April 27.

The Duterte administration has allocated 200 billion pesos (US$4 billion) in cash subsidies to alleviate hardship during lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19 for millions of Filipinos living below the poverty line.

Poor families where lockdowns have been imposed were supposedly to receive between 5,000 and 8,000 pesos a month in government assistance.

The government last week extended lockdowns, known as enhanced community quarantines, to May 15.

The vice president also joined several senators in criticizing calls to reopen Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO) run mostly by Chinese businessmen during the pandemic, saying the move was unfair on local businessmen whose operations have been halted as a result of anti-virus restrictions.

“We know that there is corruption … It is not right if they [Chinese POGO operators] are prioritized in opening their business before businesses that employ Filipinos. If we are not allowing Filipino businesses to operate, why are POGOs being given privilege to reopen?” asked Robredo.

Offshore gambling has been shrouded in accusations of prostitution, money trafficking, kidnapping and money laundering.

Authorities arrested 44 Chinese nationals on April 25 for violating Covid-19 quarantine rules by running an offshore gambling operation in Manila.

Meanwhile, seminarians from Pampanga Diocese have serenaded healthcare workers and coronavirus patients on social media.

The Magnificat Choir of the Mother of Good Counsel Seminary sang “Fishers of Men” to thank hospital workers for their “selfless” commitment to fight Covid-19 and to give hope to those who are ill with the virus.

“You [healthcare workers] are blessed because you have chosen to stand beside the Lord’s cross, the way of sacrifice for the good of all,” said choir director Father Eisen John Cruz.

As of April 26, the Philippines had recorded 7,579 Covid-19 cases with 501 deaths, according to government figures.

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