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An open letter from workers in the arts and culture industry

The COVID-19 pandemic brought a global health crisis with drastic effects on the livelihood of freelancers in the arts and culture sector of the Philippines. 

Many freelancers, especially daily wage earners without the security of tenure and health benefits, are in dire circumstances. Most events in line with the National Arts Month celebrations have been cancelled or indefinitely postponed, forcing many to rely on limited savings to support the needs of dependents. 

This situation is affirmed in the preliminary results of a survey conducted by cultural workers from Nayong Pilipino Foundation and #CreativeAidPH. For a more in-depth look, please read #CreativeAidPH's report. Among its significant findings: the mean income loss of 499 Philippine freelancer respondents, with a mean age of 33 years old, since January is Php 98,209 ($1,925.14). This ranges from a minimum of Php 2,000 ($39.20) and a maximum of Php 3,000,000 ($58,807.38). In the months to come, the mean projected income loss for every freelancer will reach Php 171,050 ($3,353.00) with a minimum of Php 5000 ($98.01) and a maximum of Php 4,500,000 ($88,211.07). 

Our cultural institutions are mandated to extend economic assistance to artists in times of crisis. We hereby demand the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) reallocate its abundant 2020 budget approved under the General Appropriations Act to aid freelance artists, cultural workers, and creatives deeply affected by this pandemic.

Our call to reallocate the NCCA budget is legally supported by the Republic Act 7356 creating the NCCA and the Duterte administration’s “Bayanihan to Heal as One” Law. A look at the NCCA’s Annual Procurement Plan underscores that it has sufficient funds for this purpose. We propose that this be reallocated to provide immediate cash relief for freelance workers in the arts and culture sector, through a disbursement process that is transparent and accessible to the public. In this, we add our voice in solidarity with the statement released by the NCCA National Committee on Cinema this 2 April 2020.

Simply put, we demand that the NCCA:

1. Reallocate the budget to address the immediate needs of the freelancers in our arts and culture sector.
2. Do so in a way that is transparent and accessible to the public.

If one of the NCCA’s responsibilities is to preserve Filipino cultural heritage, does this not include preserving the lives of our freelancers during this precarious time?  Aanhin pa ang limpak-limpak na pondo para sa arts and culture kung ang mga alagad ng sining natin ay nasa bingit ng kamatayan?

Please sign our petition and help us pressure the NCCA to fulfill its duty towards those involved in the arts and culture sector. Your voice makes a difference. 

Sama-sama, babangon tayo. Mabuhay at padayon!