Despite pandemic, population census pushing through in September
MANILA, Philippines — This year’s scheduled census of population will finally push through in September, with strict health standards and close coordination between the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and local governments in place to prevent COVID-19 infection of everyone involved.
Originally slated last May, the 2020 census of population and housing was moved to next month as most parts of the country had been placed under very stringent lockdown to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
However, the pandemic had yet to abate and cases remain high nationwide, prompting the PSA to put in place safety protocols for its 140,000 data enumerators and census supervisors specifically hired to conduct the census, National Statistician Claire Dennis Mapa told a press conference on Thursday.
“Our enumerators can conduct the census at the gates so they don’t have to come inside the houses,” the PSA chief said.
Mapa said all data enumerators will be wearing face masks and shields while observing physical distancing when they knock house-to-house for the census, whose data were being used by the government for its socioeconomic planning.
All census enumerators will be wearing a uniform so they will be easy to identify and households won’t be fooled by possible scammers, Mapa said.
The PSA will give households four options to undergo the census: a face-to-face interview that will take about 15-30 minutes; a telephone interview upon providing the data enumerator with a phone number; a computer-aided questionnaire which can be filled up and submitted online; or filling-up an eight-page self-administered questionnaire containing 53 items, which will be later on collected by the enumerator.
Mapa said their data enumerators will not proceed to survey in areas with high COVID-19 cases upon the advice of city and municipal mayors. “We will avoid high-risk areas and households,” he said.
While the census was scheduled on Sept. 1-30, Mapa acknowledged that actual surveys could take longer, especially where there were risks of COVID-19 infection.
The PSA plans to submit the census survey results to President Duterte by the second quarter of next year, Mapa said.
In the worst case of exposure to a COVID-19 patient — whether a household member or an enumerator — it will be the job of the local government units (LGUs) to initiate contact tracing, Mapa said, as any census information to be provided to the PSA will be confidential and cannot be disclosed under the Data Privacy Act.
Mapa said the census will not extract any information related to the COVID-19 disease.
“Among the data to be gathered are sex, age, marital status, education, religion, ethnicity, disability, occupation, and records of birth and death.
Information on main sources of water, electricity, fuel resources, housing units, garbage disposal, toilet facility, ICT devices, vehicles, and internet access will also be collected,” the PSA said in a statement.
“The PSA will only release aggregated information from the census in the form of summaries or statistical tables. No data or tabulation may be produced to identify any household nor any individual,” it added.
The PSA had a budget of P3.8 billion to conduct the 2020 round of population census — the country’s 15th overall, as well as the seventh round of housing census.
The PSA had projected the Philippines’ population as of July 1, 2020 at 108,771,978, based on the estimates of the latest census in 2015.
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