Gov’t to improve social protection

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    The government will continue to work on improving social protection schemes to make sure that more Filipinos are lifted out of poverty, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

    Ernesto Pernia, socioeconomic planning secretary, said in his speech at the Asian Development Bank on Monday  that despite achievements in social protection and human capital development, the Philippines still faces challenges in breaking the poverty cycle.

    “While the recent poverty incidence level improved to 21 percent in the 1st half of 2018 (versus 28 percent in the first half of 2015), there remains considerable number of Filipinos living below the poverty line.  We must continue to work together to help the poor and the vulnerable become self-sufficient and self-reliant,” Pernia said.

    “For instance, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) Act will only provide conditional cash transfers to its beneficiaries for a maximum of seven years. To ensure that the beneficiaries will not fall back into poverty once they are out of the Pantawid program, an enhanced Sustainable Livelihood Program will be implemented to support their transition,” he added.

    Asked during a panel discussion on specific implementation challenges that have been faced, from a governance point of view, Pernia said there is a lag between the need of the citizens who merit assistance and the provision of the budget.

    “It’s really a typical bureaucratic kind of delay. That is something that should be corrected. It is a man-made type of thing so it can be corrected by human intervention too,” Pernia said.

    “For example we had this problem with the unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program, there has been a lag, this is typical lag when they actually get the cash, that has been the problem, and so that is being corrected now in terms of the budgeting process,” he added.

    Pernia also said  the implementation of the national ID system will help in making sure deserving beneficiaries are the ones  getting the benefits.

    The Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) or National ID is now ongoing pilot testing. This will facilitate transaction between individuals and business sector as well as between individuals and government.

    “There are people who are able to, you know, get the (current) ID, borrow the ID, or lend the ID to some people. but the national ID should really… make quantum improvements on the grant of cash transfers,” Pernia said.

    Pernia also pointed out preliminary data from the Department of Labor and Employment’s profiling activities which show that there are more than 80,000 child laborers as of January 2019.

    “Child labor is a violation of fundamental human rights and is believed to hinder children’s development, potentially leading to lifelong physical or psychological damage,” Pernia said.

    “Through the adoption of a more holistic approach in combatting child labor and the roll-out of the Child Labor Local Registry, child laborers and their families will be referred for appropriate services and will be more easily monitored by the implementing agencies,” he added.

    Pernia said that the Philippines has made inroads in strengthening social protection and human capital development in the last decade, however there is still much work to do to achieve universal and transformative social protection and human capital development.

    “We in the Asia Pacific must rally together towards our citizenry’s full achievement of their human capital potential, leaving no one behind, and even worse leaving them forsaken especially the poor, the marginalized, and the migrants,” Pernia said.