Everything You Need To Know To Make It Through The Covid-19 Pandemic In The Philippines

Everything You Need To Know To Make It Through The Covid-19 Pandemic In The Philippines

Beyond its threat to the health of the general public, there’s looming distress that economies throughout the world are facing. Whether you’ve kept up with the news or not, chances are you’ve already noticed and experienced how it has disrupted your daily life, and on the grander scheme of things – the economy.

At this point, the COVID-19 is no longer just a problem in China; it’s evolved into a global threat that the modern times have never seen before, and the Philippines is no exception to this. As the virus continues to spread worldwide, economies have hit an all-time low. 

Its economic impact is expected, given how hard the virus has crippled the economy globally.  But how does it translate to the day-to-day lives of our people? 

For the Philippines, drastic measures were rolled out early in the pandemic, disrupting the economy down to the grassroots.  How are we all sailing through this storm?

1. Confirmed cases continue to go up

The number of cases continue to rise in the Philippines. Here are the current numbers:

Confirmed cases1546
Deaths78
Recovered42
Update as of March 30, 2020 at 4:00 PM
Source: http://www.covid19.gov.ph/

2. What are the government assistance available

Not all jobs are remote-work ready. While a handful of the workforce in the Philippines managed to continue their jobs through work from home arrangements, the majority can’t and could not even if they wanted to. From the mall sales lady to the jeepney drivers, their income is at stake and it’s one of the major issues that have yet to be resolved.

How is this being handled?

The sad reality is that not everyone can afford to stay quarantined for a month because their livelihood will be at stake. It’s a challenge that the government is still trying to sort out. At the moment, there are already some initiatives by both the public and private sectors that are aiming to extend relief to those whose livelihood is gravely affected. 

  • DOLE and some Local Government Units pledge financial relief to the workers whose income is badly hit: 
  • Davao City Mayor pledges ₱11,880 each for the PUJ Drivers
  • Vico Sotto vows full salary for government workers during the lockdown
  • Private companies are also launching their own initiatives to provide relief to their employees like the provision of 13th-month pay early to employees
  • Big BPO companies are complying with the government’s recommendation to provide accommodation to their employees who are badly affected by the lockdown due to the absence of public transport

While these initiatives are far from solving the problem completely, it’s good to know that solutions are getting delivered gradually and the existing problems are not swept under the rug.

Take advantage of government assistance programs

There are various government financial assistance programs that you can tap into during dire situations like the current quarantine measures. Here’s a quick breakdown. 

a. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) fund

DOLE has recently authorized to implement a ₱180-million emergency employment program called the Tulong Panghanap Buhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced workers or TUPAD.

Who can take apply for this?

Employees of private companies who are affected by the flexible work arrangement and temporary closure of their company due to the enhanced community quarantine.

How much can you get?

This program is a temporary relief provision that will grant ₱5,000 to the affected private-sector employees. 

How to apply?

Employers are tasked to apply for this financial relief program. The funds will be channeled to the employers and the employer will disburse it to their employees. In other words, ask your HR or management to apply for this for you. 

b. Apply for SSS unemployment benefits

The Social Security System (SSS) has announced that it is prepared to pay unemployment benefits to some 30,000 to 60,000 workers projected to lose their jobs as a result of the possible layoffs in, or closures of, private companies hit by the economic fallout from the fast-spreading new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Who can apply for this?

SSS premium-paying members can avail of unemployment benefits for a maximum of two months if they are displaced because of redundancy, installation of labor-saving devices, retrenchment, closure or cessation of operation, and disease or illness. The current situation qualifies as the cessation of operation and SSS recently announced that they are prepared to pay unemployment benefits to the affected employees. 

Whether you’re self-employed or an employee, as long as you’re consistently paying your SSS contribution, you will be qualified for this program. 

IMPORTANT:

Do note that a minimum of three years’ contribution is the prerequisite to qualify for this unemployment benefit, twelve of which should have been made in the last eighteen months.

How much can you get?

Equivalent to half of your average monthly salary credit (AMSC) and for two months straight. 

How to apply

The application can be done through the sss.gov.ph website. Simply log in to your account and click on it under e-services. 

b. Apply for Pag-IBIG Calamity Loan

The Pag-IBIG Fund has put forward its Calamity Loan Program which seeks to provide immediate financial aid to affected members in calamity-stricken areas. They have released a guide on how to apply for it digitally or online. Their members can now process their loans digitally, including Calamity Loan, in line with the government’s move to stop the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

You can check the full guide here.

local government initiatives

Local Governments in the country also have their own relief efforts and initiatives to assist families who have reduced or lost their income due to the community quarantine. In Metro Manila alone, food packs, covid19 kits, and medicine distribution are among the interventions provided by the local government.

Are you from Metro Manila? You can find out how your local government is providing financial aid during the quarantine period here.

Meanwhile, down south in the Davao Region, the city of Davao also has its own initiative to combat and assist individuals and families whose income are at loss due to the quarantine. Their local government has announced cash assistance for Jeepney drivers and food ration to poor and indigent households. Read more about it here.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has announced that it will be extending the deadline for the filing of Income Tax Return (ITR) until May 15, 2020. This move is a response to the request of the public to delay the collection due to the enhanced community quarantine situation in Luzon.

BIR’s Commissioner Caesar Dulay through a Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) last March 18 ordered the one-month extension without penalties to taxpayers.

3. What are the healthcare measures being taken

There’s no denying that the Philippines’ healthcare system is vulnerable, from the unequipped hospitals to shortage of hospital staff, it was already suffering before the COVID-19 pandemic. The current count of confirmed cases of COVID-19 however, hasn’t overloaded the country’s major hospitals yet. 

One of the biggest hurdles right now is the shortage of PPEs for the front liners, especially the healthcare professionals. Hoarders and resellers have also added to this strain, as many of them have drained the stocks during the early stage of the pandemic and are now reselling masks and rubbing alcohol at an excessive price.

While the current count is considerably lower than in other nations, we should not become complacent.

How is this being mitigated?

According to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III,  all the hospitals treating the latest cases are adequately equipped to handle COVID-19. Patients who tested positive for the virus are all referred to DOH’s accredited hospitals for proper handling and adequate care. 

Meanwhile, the government is currently cracking down on PPE resellers who have hoarded the supplies and resells them for a higher price. While it doesn’t necessarily solve the lack of supply of the PPEs, it cautioned greedy sellers from aggravating the current supply condition. 

Both the public and private sector have launched their own initiatives to produce necessary supplies such as alcohol and masks for the front liners.

  • San Miguel Corporation has announced that it will mass-produce alcohol to provide supplies to the public and the healthcare workers. 
  • The Department of Science and Technology will produce a huge volume of reusable face masks.

4. How is it affecting financial markets

On March 9, 2020, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) index hit a 10-year low, losing 457.77 points or 6.76%.  This is the steepest decline in the stock market since the financial crisis of 2007–08. The next day, shares dipped by 6.23% to ₱5,957.35, settling below the 6,000 benchmark which is the bear market territory. On the other hand, the mining and oil industries were gravely affected as it has seen a 9.05% drop, it’s tailed by holding companies with a 6.93% drop.

All that led to the stock market’s shutdown as the community quarantine got rolled out in Luzon. The Philippines is the first country to have ever done so due to the virus. 

Meanwhile, the retail industry in the Philippines is obviously suffering the brunt of the pandemic, because the lockdown directly impacted consumerism. According to the Philippine Retailers Association, the “total retail environment” saw a decline of 30% to 50%. SM Investments, the country’s largest retailer, saw a decline of 10% to 20% in domestic sales

What's next for the financial and retail markets?

The market crash was a precedent for the PSE’s shut down. However, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez announced that it will resume trading on March 19 as the government had included trading in the list of essential services exempted from the quarantine. 

In addition, the Philippine Stock Exchange will assist brokers with their logistical needs like transportation, so that it can resume on the said date.

On the other hand, there is no other way for the retail market to ride this wave but to accept the losses and implement their own initiatives to mitigate the losses.

5. How tourism is affected

Both local and international tourism is currently on halt as the country closes its borders to stop the spread of the virus. This is one big sector in the economy that has to be gravely sacrificed. It will be taking a back seat indefinitely until the threat is contained.

How is the Philippines coping?

This is one of the non-negotiables of the quarantine initiative, leaving tourism to be on hold indefinitely.

The pandemic has massively crippled the world, and hopefully, at the end of all this, we come out stronger. The only thing that is certain once all this is behind us, is that the world won’t be the same anymore. Beyond the threat that it brings to our health, our way of life will forever be changed.

6. What home-based jobs are available

If you have a stable internet connection and a working computer, getting stuck at home with nothing else to do but to wait out this quarantine period is the perfect time to explore some work opportunities online. The online job market is a treasure trove of income-earning opportunities that are accessible for those who are equipped with fluency in English and some computer skills.

If you’re a newbie at this, you can consider the following work from home opportunities that are beginner-friendly.

  • English Second Language (ESL) Teacher
  • General Virtual Assistant Jobs
  • Telemarketing / Appointment Setting
  • Customer Service Representative

This is not to say that these jobs are easy to apply for. However, these do not require a certain degree or specific expertise to engage in. These jobs are perfect if you want to slowly transition from your 9-5 to the remote work life. 

Where to apply?
There are various online portals where you can apply for home-based jobs. In the Philippines, among the most credible portals that are newbie friendly are the following:

VA, Telemarketing, CSR

  • Upwork
  • Onlinejobs.ph

ESL

How much can you earn?

Online jobs are actually quite lucrative if taken seriously. There isn’t a uniform rate for all these jobs as the salary range will ultimately depend on your experience and the employers/clients. At the very least, you can at least earn  ₱20,000 for a full-time (8 hrs a day) home-based job. 

You can read more about it in our Most Common Home Based Jobs For Newbies article. 

7. What business owners can do

Small and medium-sized businesses are the most vulnerable units in the economy right now. Big firms have been paying out salaries and providing emergency compensations, largely because they’re under pressure from the government. 

For those who are lucky enough to enjoy a work-from-home arrangement and continue business operations despite the lockdown, life is still business as usual. But for those whose source of income isn’t capable of adapting to this crisis, income will be gravely disrupted. Not everyone can afford to have their income reduced even for just a month. Bills pile up and stay the same despite this global economic disruption. 

What can you do to help your bank account conquer these tough economic times? We don’t have all the answers but this can probably help your business today. 

Take your business online

The retail market has suffered the brunt of the quarantine period. The e-commerce industry on the other hand while still affected hasn’t really slowed down significantly. Perhaps this is the time for you to consider expanding your business or establishing one online.

You don’t have to immediately jump into big online platforms like Lazada or by launching your own website. For starters, advertise your products on Facebook or Instagram. 

On the other hand, if you’re a restaurant owner whether big or small, as long as you have legally registered your business, reach out to more customers by listing your store in Foodpanda and Grab. Not only is this going to benefit your business during the quarantine period, but even after it.

8. How do you prepare for quarantine 

Staying at home has never been this phenomenal, to say the least. Despite the limited mobility due to the quarantine, do know that this does not deprive you of some basic necessities – like getting your fridge stocked up, bills paid, and medical needs nursed. 

With the quarantine in full swing, getting about these basic necessities will be nothing like your normal daily routine. Well, it doesn’t have to! Essential businesses remain open, and the best thing about it is that you can just have your groceries or food delivered straight to your home.

No need to risk getting yourself exposed to the virus outside

Grocery shopping

For your grocery needs, you can shop through:

  • Metromart app
  • Zagana website

Take out food

Meanwhile, if you’re not in the mood to cook or you simply want to eat food from your favorite restaurants, don’t fret because food delivery services have resumed operation in light of the enhanced quarantine period.

  • Grab food
  • Foodpanda

Bills, bills, bills

In case you didn’t know yet, you can actually settle most of your household utility bills with a single app, and that is no other than… Gcash –  it offers payments to a wide range of utility providers such as Globe, Meralco, Home Credit, Maynilad, and a lot more.

9. Which banks and utility companies offer payment extension

To provide relief to people who are gravely affected by the enhanced quarantine, banks, and public utility providers have made an initiative to extend payment deadlines to at least a month.

Find the full list here.

10. How to find the latest updates on Covid-19

In the midst of a nationwide emergency,  it’s important to be well-informed by the correct information channels. Avoid spreading unverified information from Facebook Messengers that can further add to the panic and anxiety that the public is currently facing. Before you go ahead and blast that unverified information you’ve received via SMS or Messenger, ask yourself if it’s going to help with the collective effort to flatten the curve or will it just cause an unnecessary panic that won’t contribute any good to the system that’s already put in place to combat the spread of the virus and ease the uncertainties of the public. Before you share or send that information, make sure you get it from a credible source of information.

Want to stay on top of the COVID-19 situation in the country? Start by getting or verifying your information through these channels:

  • http://covid19.gov.ph/
  • http://doh.gov.ph

 

This article was first published on March 9, 2020 and is regularly updated for freshness and accuracy. 

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