Needed: P20,000 calamity assistance to workers
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Militant labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno today demanded that the government provide P20,000 direct calamity assistance to families of SSS members affected by typhoon “Ondoy,” saying the moratorium on loan payments does not go far enough in addressing the immediate needs of workers’ families.
The labor group said the amount is based on computations of what a family devastated by the typhoon needs. “Surely, P20,000 is not enough, but it will help workers’ families to start over and move on with their lives. It can be easily granted by the government if it prioritizes the interests of the people,” said Elmer “Bong” Labog, KMU chairperson.
“What does a workers’ family need after being devastated by a typhoon? Food, household repairs, new school supplies for children, new clothes, kitchenware, blankets. For these needs to be met, direct cash assistance is needed,” said Labog.
KMU is calling on the government to infuse funds to the SSS so the government agency can make the assistance available to workers. “There are many possible sources,” said Labog. “One is the billions in the Presidential Social Fund, which comes from Pagcor’s earnings and which do not undergo the usual auditing procedures.”
The government can also impose a moratorium on paying the foreign debt, said Labog. “The P746.18 billion debt payment being proposed by Congress will go a long way not just in giving immediate calamity assistance to those affected by the typhoon. It will give Filipinos lots of social services for the entire year and beyond,” Labog said.
Not help enough
Labog also said the one-year suspension of payments for SSS housing and salary loans that was issued by Pres. Arroyo is not enough help for workers’ families affected by the typhoon. “While it may increase workers’ take-home pay in the coming months, workers need something immediate in the here-and-now,” he said.
This comes in the heels of KMU’s critique of calamity loans being offered by the government. “Workers are already mired in debt, long before this disaster struck,” said Labog. “We don’t want another set of debts to pay. That is not the kind of help we need in this difficult times. We need direct calamity assistance,” Labog added.
KMU also said these actions show the Arroyo government is not really keen on helping poor families devastated by the typhoon. “The US-Arroyo regime is again choosing appearance over substance – or, rather, appearance over assistance. It wants to appear helping poor people while actually refusing to do so,” said Labog.
The labor group contrasted the people’s outpouring of support for typhoon victims and the Arroyo government’s seeming reluctance to help. “Why is it that ordinary people are giving what they can to help those affected while the Arroyo regime, despite the huge funds at its disposal, is merely giving away loans?” Labog asked. #
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