Filipino migrant workers face multiple threats amidst the global pandemic. Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), most of whom are in the services sector, have high exposure to COVID-19 as frontline service providers. They are living and working in more than 238 countries and territories, including countries with high recorded cases, from China, to Italy to the US. They are in hospitals, hotels, sales, telecommunications, aviations, domestic work and cruise ships. They are also in industrial cities and parks where workers are concentrated in apartment buildings and accommodations.

Apart from the threat of the virus to their healths, the deep impact on the world economy threatens their opportunities for work. Hailed as our modern-day heroes, they continue to send remittances to their families in the Philippines even as they face highly insecure situations in their host countries.

OFWs have been stranded, with destination countries imposing travel bans. Many have already lost their jobs with the economy slowing down. For domestic workers, some are threatened of dismissal if they take leaves from work. Others are outright dismissed because their employers have less income to pay them.

Akbayan leader Etta Rosales urged the Duterte administration to support efforts of local government units (LGUs) to keep people healthy and safe during the lockdown.

Rosales issued the statement after the president told LGUs last night that the national government calls the shots during the crisis.

"Our local governments need support from the national government to provide for daily wage workers who are affected. They need clear plans and additional funds not threats and intimidation from President Duterte at 1 in the morning," Rosales said.

"Our cities and barangays can keep people safe from sickness only if their efforts are supported. If our mayors like Mayor Vico Sotto of Pasig wish for tricycles be used to ferry patients and health workers in emergency cases, they should be allowed as long as health protocols are observed," the former human rights chief said said.

"P16 a day for a month!"

This the amount indigent senior citizens have to survive on during the lockdown. Akbayan's Etta Rosales warned that our current social pension system of P500 a month for indigent senior citizens will starve them without immediate government support.

Rosales also lamented that there are more than 3 million senior citizens in the country who receive no pension at all amid COVID-19, leaving them with no financial capacity to prepare for the pandemic.

"Our senior citizens are dying in this battle with no support to prepare for the pandemic. 9 senior citizens have died due to COVID-19 from the 14 reported deaths as of Tuesday," Rosales said.

Akbayan chairperson emeritus Etta Rosales is urging for the Department of Finance's P27 billion stimulus package to prioritze cash assistance to affected workers as the government declared a Luzon-wide lockdown with COVID-19 cases rising.

"Our health and welfare services down to the barangay level need to be enhanced during the implementation of the community quarantine. Kung hindi namamatay sa virus, mamamatay sa gutom ang mga Pilipino," Etta Rosales said. "Hindi maaring sabihan ang mga tao na pumirimi na lang sa bahay and "just obey" kung wala naman silang pagkain o pera para sa gamot."

"In the P27 billion stimulus package, why is P14 billion going to the Department of Tourism? If the funding is that big, it should go to the waiters, cooks, hotel staff and other workers of the tourism industry. If not, it should go straight to our barangays to do testing and treatment for people affected of COVID-19," Rosales said.

Let science, reason and our bayanihan spirit overcome this contagion.

Akbayan supports the government, especially our health workers, in their efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic now gripping our country. We do not believe that militarized measures are necessary. We should trust our people and their community spirit.

What we need from the government are clear and strategic containment measures to minimize the spread of this disease with adequate budgetary appropriations. These measures should be designed to limit societal disruption especially to the poor and vulnerable.

Akbayan supports the view that we need aggressive testing, monitoring, isolation or quarantine regimes. Social distancing in itself is not enough. But government must provide the funds to do it immediately.