Who would have foreseen just a year ago, that our lives would never be the same again and that the world as we know it would change quite differently from how our parents would have experienced it during their time? I have in mind face masks, for example. Who would have imagined that it would be such a fixture of our day-to-day existence — of our street life, our interpersonal interactions, our essential garb as we step out of the house — and of such other things as physical distancing, disinfectants in every handbag or purse, etc. Indeed, this is the new normal for us as we are still in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic.
But with this new set-up also comes with a new way of doing things. Just the other week, I was able to order the freshest vegetables and my favorite garlic longganisa from Baguio; when I needed some dressing for the fresh veggie salad I made, it only took me a few hours to have this delivered at home whereas before the pre-pandemic days, we would drive up all the way to Tagaytay to buy this. Craving for a Ramen? I can always order a DIY kit. There are so many choices out there that one really need not go out to buy these items. Nowadays, almost everything can be delivered to your doorstep.
As former NEDA Chairman Ciel Habito noted, “The marked shift to online retail platforms has important implications for the retail trade industry in the Philippines, which, together with wholesale trade, is actually our top source of jobs. This sector accounts for close to 9 million, or more than one-fifth of total jobs in the country. Recent years had seen malls sprouting like mushrooms all through our regions, but it seems that their owners now have to seriously think of how to repurpose their buildings for other uses under the emerging new normal.”
What accounts for all these upheavals in the way we buy and sell, shop and make purchases is the home-delivery service that has emerged as one of the growth industries in the era of COVID-19. One can say that your ubiquitous motorcycle rider wearing pink or green colors or even in ordinary clothes knocking on your door or gate bearing your recent purchase of food, groceries, medicines, etc., performs an essential service to which we must all be thankful for. Indeed, it is these riders that we often see in our streets or along our roads that have kept many businesses alive particularly in these trying times when a number of establishments have pared back or outright closed.
What all these considerations amount to is the need to recognize our “riders of the pandemic” as the heroes of our new economy. They are the sinews that are keeping millions of us ensconced in our homes because of the quarantine restrictions alive, well and safe. It is no small measure that the risks of the road as well as the hazards of being infected by the virus continually hover above for the thousands of riders out there just to keep up with our orders, get our purchases to our doorsteps and to keep us provided for with our basic goods and supplies. Yet our riders are not getting the respect. With a growing number of cases about how our dedicated service crews are getting swindled or outright gypped by their customers whose behavior we all deplore.
Take the case of the 10 food delivery rides who were victimized in the amount of P20,000 by unscrupulous callers who led them to a non-existent address in BF Resort Village, Las Piñas. According to reports, the riders were vectored to a certain “Marl dela Cruz” who was nowhere to be found in the address given to them. Just imagine the plight that these hapless “essential workers” were subjected to. They have to pay for the spoiled orders out of their “basic minimum salary” and also lose the opportunity or time to take on other orders as well. The culprit(s) who did this awful deed ignored the fact that they have taken food from the mouth of these workers’ children with this criminal prank. And how about the report of another 5 food delivery riders scammed in Las Piñas for food orders amounting to P4,000-5,000 by a person(s) who referred them to a house whose occupants never made any food delivery order. So, the list goes on ad nauseam.
There ought to be a law. We need protection for our essential riders and recognize them for the critical work that they do for all of us, for our society, for the country. The fact remains that even our own Department of Labor (DOLE) has been petitioned to act on behalf of the rights and protection of our home delivery riders because they are still marginalized in the general scheme of things and their work regarded as optional and non-essential. I beg to disagree. The home-delivery sector of our economy will be there and growing in the months and years to follow. Remember that our health experts agree that COVID-19 is just one of the pandemic threats; there are others sure to come. If the quarantine closings happen again sometime in the future, where will we be without the service of our riders?