Feature: Selling flowers in the streets during a pandemic

Rose (right) with her mother Mary says selling Sampaguita garlands has been their way of life. (Photo courtesy of CARE Philippines)

Rose, a 24-year old resident of Sapa, Barangay Panghulo, Malabon City has her household composed of eight individuals, which includes her five children, her mother, father, and an aunt who is a senior citizen. Her family’s main source of income is distributing and selling Sampaguita flower garlands in the streets.

Most members of her community lost their employment. Rose revealed that since most men in the community work at construction sites, all of them lost their jobs during the lockdown enforced by the government to control the pandemic.

Women, while primarily responsible for caring for the children, also sold sampaguita garlands on the side to augment household incomes. Due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or lockdown, they were unable to sell the garlands and had no sustainable source of income. 

“Bawal kasi talaga lumabas. Halimbawa, nakita ka ng barangay sa labas, huhulihin ka kaagad lalo na pag wala kang mask,” Rose recalled in a report by CARE Philippines, a global leader within a worldwide movement dedicated to ending poverty founded in 1945.  

“We were not allowed to go out at all. If the barangay officials see you outside of your house, they would arrest you immediately especially if you do not have a face mask,” she added. 

Rose also mentioned that the quarantine protocols in their barangay are extremely strict. For each household, throughout the ECQ, only one person is allowed to go out and do errands. They did not have curfew hours since residents were not allowed to go out if they do not have a quarantine pass. If apprehended, curfew violators are taken to the barangay office. Rose also mentioned that those who guard and enforce quarantine protocols in their community are all men. 

When asked whether they had access to face masks during the ECQ, Rose shared that they could not afford a box of face masks. It was too expensive, so they used cloths and handkerchiefs as an alternative for protective gear. She also mentioned that practicing social distancing was difficult and almost impossible for them since their house is small and all of them were forced to stay inside.

Rose shared that they received food aid four times during the lockdown. However, this was insufficient to meet the foods needs of the whole household.

Most of the time they were eating only twice or once a day in order to make food supply last longer. As for the cash aid, she mentioned that there were a lot of households in the community that did not receive cash assistance even though they lost their jobs and applied for the government’s Social Amelioration Program (SAP). 

“Kulang po talaga ang binibigay ng barangay. Minsan sabi ko sa anak ko pag humihingi ng pagkain, inom na lang siya tubig para ma-survive ang gutom,” said 49-year old Mary, Rose’s mother.

“The food aid given by the barangay is insufficient. Sometimes when my children ask for food, I just tell them to drink lots of water so that they can endure their hunger and survive,” Mary added. 

Since the implementation of General Community Quarantine (GCQ), Rose and her family were able to go back to selling and distributing Sampaguita garlands.

However, it would take them 8 to 9 hours of walking every day since there is no public transportation. They also mentioned that as of now there is little profit from selling since the pandemic has caused the closure of many business establishments.

With the expected increase in the supply of vaccines beginning this month, the A4 priority group for the COVID-19 vaccination roll out has been expanded to include those who work outside their homes and government employees, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

The A4 group was formerly focused on economic front liners and personnel who have high levels of interaction with the public, and are needed to ensure security and consumer and worker safety.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases adopted NEDA’s recommendation through Resolution No. 117. Citing data which shows that there is a high risk of exposure for workers living or working in areas with a dense population or dense economic activity, NEDA said it is important to accelerate vaccination in the National Capital Region (NCR)+8 (Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao).

“There is a high demand for vaccines from the economic sectors. As we are expecting an increase in the supply beginning June 2021, we are now able to expand the list to protect more workers. Vaccinating them will also help safeguard their families, our health gains, and our economic recovery,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua.

With the IATF approval of the expanded list, private sector workers who need to be physically present in their workplace; employees in government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) and local government units (LGUs); informal sector workers and self-employed individuals who work outside their homes; and those working in private households are now included in the A4 priority group.

The first phase of vaccine deployment for the expanded A4 group will be focused on approximately 13 million additional workers in NCR+8 since these areas make up majority of COVID-19 cases in the country.

Another 22.5 million workers will subsequently be included from areas outside NCR+8, bringing the total estimate to 35.5 million.

NEDA Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon stressed that stronger engagement with establishments, agencies and organizations (EAOs) is needed to facilitate vaccine deployment to the A4 priority groups and get us closer our target of inoculating 70 million adult Filipinos by year-end.

“We enjoin EAOs to work closely with us and help reach and vaccinate as many A4 group members as possible. The EAOs may organize vaccination of their A4-eligible workers in their offices or workplaces,” Edillon said. (PIA NCR)

Source: Philippines Information Agency (pia.gov.ph)

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