SEATTLE, Washington — Although the Philippines’ poverty rate is at a decline, a significant fraction of the population remains homeless. With a total population of approximately 106 million people, 4.5 million people are homeless and three million of those homeless people reside in the capital of Manila. These numbers clearly indicate that homelessness in the Phillippines continues to be a pressing issue for the country. After a surge of new COVID-19 cases in March, President Rodrigo Duterte declared a month-long quarantine in Manila. The added impact of COVID-19 and lockdown has only exacerbated the struggle for survival that homeless people face.
Organizations Doing Their Part
The COVID-19 pandemic clearly highlights the inequalities in access to food, shelter and healthcare while putting the homeless at a higher risk of exposure to the virus. While citizens feel the drastic effects of COVID-19 across the Philippines, many organizations are partnering to help alleviate the health and economic impacts through housing and welfare initiatives. In partnership with its 9,000 members across 14 cities and towns throughout the Philippines, the Philippines Homeless People’s Federation has identified vulnerable communities hit hardest by the pandemic and are establishing communication networks that will prioritize getting help for the homeless.
Despite the implementation of quarantine, several establishments have decided to still continue addressing the issue of homelessness in the Philippines by keeping their doors open for the homeless. St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga Center has remained open and was able to serve 226 homeless people. The company chief operating officer at Hey Homies is currently offering free food and utilities to homeless people who need it during the pandemic. Additionally, Popburri, a store that sells popsicles in Quezon City, transformed its place into a homeless shelter for those affected by the lockdown.
COVID-19 Cases Increase
Unfortunately, on July 5, 2020, the Philippines’ coronavirus infection count was 44,254. A significant surge in cases, approximately 2,434, contributed to this total. As of May 28, 2020, the Philippines received a considerable loan of $500 million from the World Bank to reduce the impact of COVID-19. This loan will distribute financial relief to vulnerable households and adds to social assistance efforts for 18 million residents.
According to the World Bank, The Philippines Emergency COVID-19 Response Development Policy Loan includes subsidies for 4.3 million Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program beneficiaries in the form of monthly cash transfers as well as “social assistance for 13.6 million affected households that are not part of the program.” With the unemployment rate skyrocketing to 17.7% due to lockdown closures and an estimated loss of $115 million for the Philippines’ communication equipment industry, the country’s financial losses are continuing to be felt.
While restrictions are being eased in cities with minimal cases to allow for restored business activity, President Rodrigo Duterte states that “the battle against COVID-19 is not yet over.” However, with the continued partnership between government and non-government institutions seeking to address these issues, humanitarian efforts may soften the blow of COVID-19 on existing homeless citizens and steps are being taken to prevent further home displacements from adding to the already overwhelming rate of homelessness in the Philippines.
– Erica Fealtman