In moments of extreme crisis, governments have the responsibility to provide effective leadership and assure people that they will not be abandoned. States that consistently fail to deliver on their duties do not deserve the mandate to govern. In this light, the present surge of Covid-19 cases within the first month of 2022 is a serious danger to millions of Filipinos that demands decisive action from the Philippine government.
The NAGKAISA! Labor coalition asserts that what we need is a comprehensive, people-centered, and health-based pandemic response to successfully overcome the present surge and to prevent similar events in the future. This requires more than widespread vaccination but also the employment of more compassionate, free, and accessible health protocol procedures rather than simply reverting back to heavy-handed lockdown measures.
We call on the Philippine government to get its act together. While continuing to ramp up vaccination efforts, it must take steps to provide free mass testing to all those that require it, ensure sufficient resources for contact tracing (including job security for contact tracers), hire more health workers, and provide frontliners decent compensation and wages in order to prevent our hospitals from being overwhelmed. These are the crucial steps towards creating a proactively competent pandemic response system.
More than two years into the present pandemic, organized labor, the private sector, as well as the general public are in desperate need of decisive leadership. Now is not the time for punitive measures such as prohibiting the unvaccinated from accessing public transportation. Recent moves such as the DILG’s order for LGUs to list the names of the unvaccinated resemble more a witch-hunt to merely punish and shame people, instead of actually working on providing a systematic pandemic response.
The government must step up to provide us with a coherent plan against Covid-19, not blame the rising cases merely on a lack of discipline or the failure to comply with health protocols. In a situation where RT-PCR testing remains very expensive for most Filipinos, to what extent can we realistically expect our people to simply “follow the rules”?
To avoid daily infections in the tens of thousands or even more, the government must open spaces for meaningful policy dialogue and participation in decision-making for organized labor. Trade unions, together with other stakeholders, must have a voice in designing and implementing the country’s pandemic response. Our national Covid-19 strategy must be centered on providing dignified and secure lives to all Filipinos as we collectively weather this present situation.
NAGKAISA believes that the legacy of this administration will be measured primarily by the number of lives it is able to save, the decent jobs it is able to provide, and the security that it is able to guarantee to millions of Filipinos during one of the most challenging moments in our nation’s history.
NAGKAISA Labor Coalition
13 January 2022