A convenor and a co-convenor of two research programs of the University of the Philippines Center for Integrative and Development Studies (UP CIDS) spoke at the keynote session of the Young Scholars Conference on Philippine Studies in Japan last July 17, 2021. Asst. Prof. Benjamin Velasco, Co-convenor of the UP CIDS Program on Alternative Development (AltDev) was one of two presenters in the panel “Philippine Societies in a Time of Pandemic,” while Dr. Antoinette Raquiza, Convenor of the UP CIDS Political Economy Program (PEP), served as the panel’s discussant. The two-day annual conference was held online and was hosted by Kanazawa University.
Velasco presented the main findings of the AltDev case studies on the COVID-19 responses of the Nagkaisa labor coalition, the farm workers organizations Asosasyon sang mga Mamu mungon sa Nolan (AMANO) and Nakalang Padila Farm Workers Association (NAFWA), the women social enterprise Igting, and the Ayta Mag-indi community in Pampanga. He discussed how organized communities exercise agency in the face of a failed authoritarian response by the Duterte administration. These grassroots responses are alternative practices that contest the mainstream neoliberal paradigm. In her commentary, Dr. Raquiza averred that examining the grassroots responses are relevant in understanding the dynamics of COVID-19’s impact to Philippine society. She noted that structural factors such as state formation can also explain the differential impacts of the pandemic on the countries of Southeast Asia.
There was a lively discussion in the open forum with questions about the effect of the pandemic on sectors of the economy, the role of the Left, the response of the Catholic Church, and on the significance of the community pantries.