The COVID-19 pandemic has had an overwhelming impact on poverty and inequality, with certain groups more affected than others. A PIDS study released in 2020 predicted that the number of poor Filipinos could rise by about 1.5 million from the baseline figures if everyone’s income contracts by 10 percent, even with the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) and the Small Business Wage Subsidy (SBWS) in place. It also noted that without the SAP and SBWS, the number of poor would increase by 5.5 million.
While some studies have shown that the pandemic has positive environmental impact such as better air and water quality, it has also created new environmental problems
such as the surge in the volume of waste materials stemming from the widespread use of plastics, disposable masks, shields, personal protective equipment/gears, and other medical/healthcare supplies both from households and hospitals during the pandemic. This has exacerbated prevailing climate change issues.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also greatly affected the labor sector. It revealed major gaps and flaws in current social protection systems. Particularly, it highlighted existing inequities faced by low-compensation workers as they are more likely to encounter poor work-related conditions, live in crowded conditions or polluted areas, take congested public transportation, lack the financial resources to afford adequate protection even while away from the workplace, feel compelled to go to work even on sick days as the opportunity cost of not working is just too high, and have pre-existing health conditions given the environment they are in and the stresses they encounter.
Given these challenges, we need to reset our paradigms and practices by balancing the interests of people, profit, and planet or by placing equal importance on economic, social, and environmental well-being and sustainability.
This is highlighted in this year’s Development Policy Research Month (DPRM) theme “Reset and Rebuild for a Better Philippines in the Post-Pandemic World” (Filipino translation: “Muling Magsimula at Magtayo Tungo sa Mas Matatag na Pilipinas Pagkatapos ng Pandemya”).
To attain a resilient and better Philippines after the pandemic, the government should focus on setting the right policies that will remove inequities in accessing essential services, such as health and education; protect all segments of the population, especially the poor and the informal workers, from various risks by designing effective social protection systems; incentivize businesses to improve participation in climate change adaptation; and encourage citizens to adopt more sustainable ways of life.
The business sector, for its part, should explore ways and areas where it can be both profitable and socially responsible. Business owners and operators are urged to understand that companies that embrace decent work principles, provide the best service to their customers, and show concern for the well-being of people and the environment are more likely to generate broad-based and long-term support from their stakeholders.
Meanwhile, civil society is urged to continue reaching out to sectors that do not have access to government channels and to strengthen its advocacy for more accountable and responsive governance and more sustainable business practices.
The academe also has an important role to play. It should ensure that the new modes of delivering education and training under the new normal are accessible to all and will not widen economic and social inequalities. Moreover, schools should endeavor to improve their curriculum by imparting knowledge, skills, values, and attitudes that promote social responsibility and environmental stewardship.
Lastly, the general public should adopt new practices in work, learning, leisure, and other life facets that will help in building resilience to adversities. Everyone should also start living more responsibly by adopting more sustainable lifestyles.
Collectively, the government, business sector, academe, civil society, and the general public should join forces in pursuing a shared vision of an equitable, sustainable, and resilient post-pandemic Philippines.
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