On March 12, 2020, the Philippine government declared community quarantine which took effect March 15 for Metro Manila and select provinces, towns, and cities. However, on March 16 enhanced community quarantine (a stricter lockdown) was expanded to the whole Luzon Island--the Philippines’ biggest island. Local government units from other islands followed suit and also implemented quarantines. Partners Worldwide local partners, Katuwang Resource Center Inc. and CCT Credit Cooperative Palawan, are based and operate in the provinces that implemented quarantine beginning March 16th 2020.
Katuwang ceased operations from March 16 to May 15, 2020. On May 16, it started operating on 50% capacity as mandated by the government. More than 80% of Katuwang’s member’s businesses and enterprises either totally ceased or had very limited business operations because of the lockdown. In addition, no loan payments and savings collections were made during that time yet Katuwang continued to provide the salaries of all their staff. As a result, the very existence of the LCI was placed in a very fragile situation.
CCT-CC Palawan operates in an island the prides itself as one of the best tourist destinations in the world. The island's economy is dependent on tourism industry and peak season in the island starts December and ends May of the following year. On February 2020, in time for the Chinese Lunar New Year, the COVID-19 virus started to become very prevalent not only in Mainland China but was beginning to spread in other countries. Because of this, there was very slow business in February that led to a total cessation of tourism related businesses from March 16 until now as regular international and domestic commercial flights are still cancelled.
Both Katuwang and CCT, and their respective member-partners were (and still are) adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic impact. Katuwang projected a recovery period of at least four months while CCT-Palawan has a more challenging path to recovery specifically in communities where livelihood of the LCI’s members is totally dependent on tourism. Once-thriving enterprises of these organizations’ members are so adversely affected such that even basic family needs became difficult to provide.
On July 15, 2020, Katuwang Resource Center Inc. (KRCI) and its arm Livelihood for Spiritual and Social Transformation, Inc. (LiSSo Inc.) -- with funding assistance from Partners Worldwide and in coordination with the Municipality of Don Salvador Benedicto (DSB) -- brought much needed hope to 150 Katuwang member families in DSB by providing certified vegetable seeds (eggplant, squash, string beans, bitter gourd, and okra) for planting to ensure continuous supply of food for the family. The assistance also included much needed hygiene kits and food items not available in the mountain community.
From July 14 to 25, CCT-CC Palawan with PW’s COVID-19 funding assistance was able to extend basic food relief packages (rice, canned goods, oil, sugar, etc.) to 206 families of CCT-CC member partners.
In both Katuwang and CCT-CC Palawan, recipients of this small but much needed help expressed gratitude and appreciation but at the same time felt a mixed feeling of uneasiness and relief because this disaster wasn’t a typhoon, earthquake, volcano eruption, drought, or caused by an armed conflict. Instead, it was a new, non-endemic disease that altered and still altering all aspects of life in the Philippines and globally since March 2020. It has been five months now since the Philippine government declared various levels of quarantine nationwide but we are still uncertain when will this end.
But we are assured that in the midst of this extended crisis we have that blessed hope that we will overcome, survive, rebuild, and recover as Katuwang Resource Center, Inc, CCT- Credit Cooperative – Palawan, Partners Worldwide, and generous donors and supporters continue to journey together, bear each other’s burdens together, and help one another during this time of great challenge. Maranatha! Come Lord, Jesus.