By Francis David T. Perez and Carlito P. Topacio


Senators urged the government to balance public health and the economy to address the recession the country is facing amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

Legislators released statements following Philippine economy’s 16.5-percent plunge in the second quarter, emphasizing that bolstering the country’s health response was key to reviving the economy.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon called on government officials to “[restore] the people’s confidence” in their ability to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Nobody expected it to be this severe. This is the result of the ‘shotgun’ approach in handling Covid-19,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

“This shows the grim reality: gutom ang tao – walang trabaho, walang pera at ubos na ang ipon,” Drilon said.

The minority leader said “the government must take swift and decisive actions” to help the poor and revive the demand side of the economy, as household consumption dropped by 15.5 percent in the second quarter.

“People will feel confident when they see that the government is doing the right thing, effective measures are in place and the healthcare system is not collapsing,” he explained.


‘No-win-all situation’

Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto called for a more comprehensive health response, stating that a healthy populace would yield more able-bodied workers and proactive consumers.

“Fear of catching the virus is one reason for dampened consumption, which is three-fifths of the economic pie. We must flatten the curve to revive the flatlining economy,” Recto said.

The senator also stressed the need for more public transportation options during lockdowns. He cited the unemployment surge to 17.7 percent in April, which he said could be attributed to the lack of safe commuting options.

“We have to keep people and commerce moving safely. Lockdown should not totally ground all public transportation. Not everything on the economy travels along the information highway,” Recto said.

Recto also noted that the economy lost P1.4 trillion during the first half of the year and called on state economists to present a “second half battle plan.”

“The economy is gasping in the ER and a more robust stimulus package is the ventilator that it needs,” the senator said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the “tightrope-like balancing act” between public health and the economy had caused a “no win-all situation,” worsened by corruption in government.

“That is why it is revolting to discover so much unabated corruption in PhilHealth involving billions that could have been put into good use,” Lacson said.


‘Kalusugan o ekonomiya?’

Detained senator Leila de Lima blamed the Duterte administration for the lack of “real leadership and effective governance.”

“Pinapapili tayo — kalusugan o ekonomiya? … Pwede naman ibalanse, di ba? Basta ba may maayos at magaling na plano at namumuno,” she said in a dispatch from Camp Crame on Friday.

De Lima claimed that both choices could be balanced as long as there was a clear plan.

“If only there was or is a real, comprehensive health-centered strategy, repeated and prolonged lockdowns would have been avoided and our economy would not have taken such a beating,” she said.

“And where is the President now, who is supposedly the over-all, and ideally, the only anti-pandemic Czar on top of the whole situation, 24/7? Back in Davao?” the senator said.