Sen. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go assured that the government will protect the vulnerable sectors in society, especially the senior citizens, amid the threat of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) during the enhanced community quarantine imposed in Luzon.

According to the neophyte senator, he has requested the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to prioritize the release of the social pensions of indigent senior citizens to tide them over for the duration of the quarantine while also releasing the same benefits for other affected sectors.

“I asked the DSWD to help them along with our senior citizens since most of them will be out of work while the enhanced community quarantine is in effect,” Go said in his weekly column “GOing Forward.”

Recognizing the needs of the elderly, Go pointed to data from COVID-affected countries which showed that people above 60 years old are among the most vulnerable to the virus as they usually have weaker immune systems and pre-existing medical conditions — a lethal combination which lowers their chances of surviving the virus despite treatment.

He also acknowledged the inability of the indigent elderly to gain income during the quarantine, which has shuttered most businesses and income-generating means as senior citizens have struggled to earn their keep for sustenance even in normal conditions.

Vulnerable Pinoys get care

Along with aiding the elderly, Go said he requested the DSWD to extend the same services to other vulnerable sectors such as persons with disabilities, pregnant and lactating women, solo parents and indigent indigenous peoples, informal economy workers, mass transport workers such as drivers of tricycles and other public utility vehicles.

Go likewise requested the agency to release other services such as the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS), Food and Non-Food Items (FNI) and Sustainable Livelihood Programs (SLP).

Go revealed that he was in discussions with President Duterte, Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Speaker of the House Alan Peter Cayetano to hold a special session in Congress on a bill that aims to further empower and give the government the flexibility it needs to address the present health emergency.

“I have made it my personal mission to be present and active throughout our country’s fight against COVID-19. I’ve been coordinating with key government officials and President Rodrigo Duterte regarding what can be done for the people, especially the vulnerable sectors,” Go said.

To aid more Filipinos, Go likewise lodged an appeal to the Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue to extend the deadline for filing annual income tax returns, in which the agency agreed to move the deadline from 15 April to 15 May 2020.

Go also backed the DBM’s request to the President to issue an administrative order to authorize national government agencies, including state universities and colleges and government-owned and -controlled corporations, to grant a hazard pay not exceeding P500 per day to workers who occupy regular, contractual or casual positions in the National Capital Region and other local government units.

Another proposal by Go was granted as the Department of Health (DoH) took the advice to centralize treatment of COVID-positive patients in specific hospitals.

“I likewise listen to the pleas and sentiments of our private health care providers and practitioners at this time. It is for this reason that I openly supported the appeal of an alliance of Metro Manila private hospitals to centralize all efforts and resources into designated COVID-19 hospitals,” Go said.

He pointed out that the DoH is also mulling to activate the Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital in Caloocan and the Philippine General Hospital in Manila as additional facilities to handle persons under investigations and patients who tested positive for COVID-19.

Go similarly prodded the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine to expedite the validation of test kits and the Food and Drug Administration to act faster on the applications for approvals of testing kits given the low number of test kits to confirm cases in the country.