De Lima lauds initiatives to care for urban poor, homeless during COVID-19 pandemic


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Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima applauds the selfless efforts of groups and personalities who took it upon themselves to provide shelter, food and assistance to underprivileged citizens who are much more vulnerable in contracting the deadly novel coronavirus because of their circumstances.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee of Social Justice, Welfare and Rural development, made the statement after learning of the generosity of individuals and groups in taking in the poor, including the homeless, into their programs and giving them much-needed sustenance to defend themselves against COVID-19.

“Thank you, De La Salle University (DLSU) and the Divine Word Missionaries through the KALINGA Program, for providing a sanctuary for the homeless even as we are all grappling with the horrors of a relatively unknown and highly contagious disease,” she said.

“Father Flavie, maraming salamat sa mga inisyatiba mo. Huwag ka sanang mapapagod magbigay ng pag-asa dahil mahaba-haba pa ang ating tatanganing laban. Sabi mo nga: ‘Try to see who is the most hopeless around you, and be that hope to that person’,” she added.

Fr. Flavie Villanueva, founder of St. Arnold Janssen Kalinga (Kain at Ligo nang Ayos) Center, a program of the Divine Word Missionaries, and with the partnership of the DLSU has provided a temporary shelter to the homeless, in compliance of the Luzon-wide lockdown implemented by the government.

Aside from shelter, the Kalinga Center also provides homeless citizens meals and a shower for at least three times a week. However, since the announcement of the lockdown, they have ramped up their operations.

Last March 19 and again on March 21, Fr. Villanueva reported that they have temporarily stopped their program after local barangay officials intervened, even if they are implementing ‘social distancing’ protocols as advised by health authorities.

“I heard about the services at KALINGA Homeless Center being interrupted by authorities. How despicable! In this time of dire need, it’s cruel for them to deprive much-needed services to the less fortunate,” De Lima said.

To date, the pandemic brought about by the novel coronavirus has killed 35 individuals with 552 confirmed infections in the Philippines. Most social and economic institutions within the country has been left reeling due to the imposed lockdown in Luzon and other select cities and municipalities nationwide.

However, despite lackluster performance by the national government in responding properly to the crisis, local leaders and private businesses banded together to assist underprivileged citizens affected by COVID-19.

In another Dispatch from Crame 747, De Lima also thanked local leaders and private businesses who banded together to assist millions of residents and daily wage workers affected by lockdown brought about by coronavirus disease outbreak.

In a statement, Project Ugnayan – a collaboration of business groups in cooperation with the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PRDF) – raised PhP1.5 billion worth of grocery vouchers for about one million poor families in Metro Manila.

“I laud and thank all of you for stepping up to the challenges of these trying times, in the face of incoherent and faltering policies of the national government. Your initiative is a concrete proof of what we – in the government, in the business community, and in civil society – can do for the welfare of the least of us,” De Lima said.

“This is what the government, particularly the Executive Branch, should be doing instead of seeking for unnecessary powers, which is not the responsive solution to the nation’s crisis. The national government should consider emulating the initiatives and mindset of the private sector,” she added.

Last March 24, Congress has approved the bill which grants Mr. Duterte authorized or special powers including the authority to realign funds in the 2019 and 2020 budget for measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

It has also granted the President authority to direct the operation of privately-owned hospitals, medical facilities, passenger vessels and other establishments to house health workers, serve as quarantine areas, become quarantine centers, medical and aid centers or temporary health facilities, and serve as transportation for health workers. (30)

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