MANILA- Government is looking into its capacity to also provide aid for the middle class amid the COVID-19 crisis in light of a local official's request, a Malacañang official said Wednesday, as he assured unhampered support for poor families.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles, spokesperson of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases, said government would be able to continue providing aid for the poor should it decide to expand support to cover middle-class families.
"Pinag-aaralan pa po... Ayoko po pangunahan pero I assure that this (aid for the middle class) will not hamper the distribution of aid sa mga mahihirap under the social amelioration program," Nograles said in a virtual press briefing.
(It is still being studied. I don't want to preempt it but I assure you that giving aid for the middle class will not hamper the distribution of aid for the poor under the social amelioration program.)
"Ang para sa middle class, hiwalay po ang budget diyan," he said.
(We will have a different budget for the middle class.)
The government has been distributing cash aid ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 under its 2-month emergency subsidy program meant to help 18 million poor families.
With most families dependent on food rations, Cavite Governor Jonvic Remulla appealed to the national government to include the middle class in the program-- a call that the President said is "valid."
But while President Duterte agreed that others are also affected by the economic fallout due to the pandemic, he said the government's priority is the "poorest of the poor."
"I am reiterating that our most vulnerable citizens, most especially the poorest of the poor, must receive the government's assistance immediately, kung hindi patay 'yan sa gutom (if not, they will die of hunger)," Duterte said on Monday night.
The spread of the highly infectious coronavirus disease has prompted a lockdown of Luzon and other parts of the country, suspending school, public transport and work, except for those in basic services.
The strict community quarantine, which required people to stay in their homes, has deprived daily wage earners of their livelihood.
The President has extended the Luzon lockdown until April 30, from the original end date of April 12, in hopes of effectively containing the virus.