NCCA urged to give aid and relief to Filipino creatives amid COVID-19 quarantine

April 21, 2020 - 4:59 PM
A photographer holding his device. (Unsplash/James Bold)

Several artists and cultural workers called on the National Commission for Culture and the Arts to fully support Filipino artists’ rights and welfare as several of them were affected by the implementation of the enhanced community quarantine.

In an open letter addressed to the NCCA, a group of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) criticized the commission for its “lack of institutional leadership” in terms of providing support to the members of the arts and culture sector, particularly those working on a freelance basis.

It cited a survey done by the “#CreativeAidPH” and Nayong Filipino Foundation that sought to “get a picture of the financial effects of COVID-19” to freelancers in the creative and cultural industry and reported that “significant income losses” would be felt “if the lockdown continues.”

“Because behind these numbers are individual stories of cultural workers and artists striving to make ends meet. We have been helping, both each other as well as some of society’s most marginalized, through our art and volunteerism as citizens,” CAP said in a statement.

“But every day of the pandemic that passes, the question of our individual and collective survival becomes more pressing—with no strong leadership forthcoming. Particularly when one considers that, across scientific, medical, and socio-economic reckoning, this situation is expected to last until the end of 2020, with its more profound impacts yet to be felt,” it added.

𝗢𝗻 𝗔𝗶𝗱 𝗮𝗻𝗱 𝗥𝗲𝗹𝗶𝗲𝗳 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗔𝗿𝘁𝗶𝘀𝘁𝘀 An Open Letter to the National Commission for Culture and the Arts21 April 2020Mr….

Posted by Concerned Artists of the Philippines on Monday, April 20, 2020


Despite this, the group acknowledged the NCCA’s efforts in supporting freelancers through the Assistance Program for Cultural Worker and Artists under State of Calamity and NCCA-DOLE TUPAD Assistance Program.

CAP, however, added that it was a “one-time program rolled out on absurdly short notice” which the NCCA’s National Committee on Cinema has described “as demeaning, unrealistic in its deadlines, and problematic in its process of consultation and implementation.”

“Ang kailangan po natin ay kagyat na tugon ninyo para pangalagaan ang ating kolektibong kaginhawaan, kalusugan, at ang kalayaang lumikha at magsalita para sa kapakanan ng mamamayang Pilipino,” CAP said.

Joining the calls urging the NCCA to develop a more comprehensive program to support freelancers are writer Rolando Tolentino, director-actor Noel Escondo, actress-writer Betty Uy-Regala and actress and Gawad Urian recipient Sue Prado, among others.

Contemporary artist Nikki Luna, who also joined the call, likewise asked for the NCCA’s support for artists amid the COVID-19 crisis.

The Filipino creatives are using hashtags #NCCAloca #artistsfightback and #NCCAAnoKamo in their online protest for the agency’s COVID-19 aid.

‘Daily wage earners’ of creative industry

The NCCA previously introduced the Assistance Program for Cultural Workers Under the State of Calamity which aims to provide quick cash assistance to artists and cultural workers displaced by the enhanced community quarantine.

Freelance workers and those whose source of income has been cut off amid the pandemic are entitled to receive P5,000 net of tax from the agency.

A report of the Philippine Information Agency said that the “NCCA will prioritize those who are not under an employer-employee relationship, without regular income or are working freelance, with no benefits, and those whose source of income are gone due to the current crisis.”

“The ‘NCCA’s Assistance Program for Cultural Workers Under the State of Calamity’ is funded through the Commission’s ‘Arts Program as Quick Response for Natural and Human Induced Disasters,’ approved for the year 2020 by the NCCA Board of Commissioners,” the report added.

Tolentino, who also heads the NCCA’s National Committee on Cinema, said that commission failed to consult the national committees before implementing the initiative.

He shared that the Republic Act 7356, known as the “Law Creating the National Commission for Culture and the Arts,” enables the national committees and sub-commissions to formulate policies for artists and culture workers, not NCCA’s management committee.

Meanwhile, the NCCA-DOLE Tupad Program aims to provide support to artists and cultural workers under the labor department’s amelioration program wherein applicants will be subjected to evaluation.

Freelance workers in the creative and culture industry are considered the “daily wage” earners of the sector who are not affiliated with any company or organization, making them more vulnerable to no-work-no-pay schemes.

The Department of Labor and Employment said that over one million Filipino workers have been displaced as an effect of onsite work suspension due to the enhanced community quarantine.

It urged employers, particularly big businesses, to continuously pay its workers while the quarantine takes place. The umbrella directive has been extended until April 30.