Quezon City, Philippines – The Amihan or National Federation of Peasant Women demanded the government to prepare its support program for possible COVID-19 outbreak in the barrios nationwide. The group issued the statement amid the rising number of cases due to COVID in National Capital Region.

“The demand for a support program for possible outbreak in the barrios is legitimate. As the number of cases is rising right now, it is still uncertain if the government has prepared any social assistance to patients coming from poor sectors, especially from the rural areas,” Zenaida Soriano, Amihan National Chairperson exclaimed.

She added that on top of continued marginalization and oppression of rural-based sectors, an outbreak is almost synonymous to certain death.

“We have witnessed how marginalized the peasant sector in the country. The government has denied genuine agrarian reform and recently it pushed through with liberalization of the rice sector. These adds to their vulnerabilities, akin to their sufferings during natural calamities, when they are deprived by the government of due aid. More probably, this would be the case if an outbreak takes place,” she noted.

She stressed that the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak to the rural poor should be addressed.

“Patients belonging to upper classes are fortunate to have the capacity to seek help in private hospitals. The rural poor in the country are even lucky to have barangay health workers and health centers. It is always a saying that peasants usually die of illnesses without even seeing a doctor or a medical personnel. This is worsened by  Duterte’s budget cut to the health sector,” she slammed.

Soriano said that if the Duterte government continues with its incompetent approach of downplaying the impact of the COVID-19, such as when President Duterte blabbered about slapping the virus and the Department of Health (DOH) prematurely celebrating of low number of confirmed cases, when actually it has limited resources on testing, the whole Filipino population would be put at risk.

“Public health emergency should be publicly funded and it should include social assistance. The government could start with mass free distribution of face mask and hand sanitizers in the provinces, and quit ‘washing their hands’ of their blunders,” the peasant women leader ended. ###

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