DBM releases P100B for COVID aid 

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    THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Thursday said it has released P100 billion for the government’s social amelioration program (SAP) which seeks to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

    The DBM, in a statement, said the released amount is expected to cover the first month requirement of the SAP that will cover almost 18 million Filipino households who have been identified to be mostly vulnerable to the economic shocks brought by the COVID-19 situation.

    “The first P100 billion for the first month’s cash distribution is available as certified by the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr),” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said

    Specifically, DBM said the amount will be used for “protective services for individuals and families in especially difficult circumstances or assistance to individuals in crisis situations.”

    It will also be extended to target low-income household beneficiaries in the form of cash.

    The said amount will be augmented once the same is liquidated and/or reported to be deficient, the DBM said.

    The fund was released by DBM to the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

     FULL AMOUNT

    DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said recipients of the government’s COVID aid will receive the full amount of P5,000 to P8,000 in cash assistance, depending on the prevailing minimum wage in their areas.

    The cash aid is on top of the relief and food assistance that some local governments and even private donors have already distributed.

    Bautista made the statement, during the Laging Handa public briefing, following reports that the cost of the relief and food aid that had already been distributed to low-income families and vulnerable sectors will be deducted from the cash aid.

    Bautista said the DSWD will be the lead agency in the distribution of the cash subsidies. The agency will likewise give away food packs which he said should amount to P1,500 per pack.

    Bautista said that based on the amelioration guidelines issued by the DSWD and approved by the IATF, beneficiaries includes recipients of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program (4Ps) and low-income families, the vulnerable sectors like senior citizens, pregnant and lactating mothers, persons with disability, solo parents; homeless Filipinos, “no work, no pay” workers, farmers and fishermen, and drivers of public utility vehicles.

    He said the DSWD can process the cash aid in a minimum of three days, even as he acknowledged there may be some delays in the validation of the list and qualifications of beneficiaries.

    Duterte on Wednesday night stripped local government executives of their roles in the cash and food aid distribution following complaints of favoritism and politicking.

    Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said while the DSWD has taken the lead in the distribution of the cash aid, it may still tap the local government units to assist the national government’s distribution efforts.

     ADB SUPPORT

    The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has launched a $5-million project to assist the Philippine government in providing necessary food supplies to up to 55,000 vulnerable households in Metro Manila and neighboring areas, which are under enhanced community quarantine.

    The ADB said in a statement Wednesday evening that the Rapid Emergency Supplies Provision Project will be implemented under the name “Bayan Bayanihan.”

    It will leverage ADB and private sector resources to provide essential food supplies to vulnerable households in Luzon, including Metro Manila, to bridge the gap until other support mechanisms are activated, the multilateral agency said.

    Beneficiaries will include the poorest families, as well as informal sector workers who have lost their livelihoods because of an extended period of self-isolation and business closures.

    “This project will ensure that tens of thousands of the poorest and most vulnerable households in the Philippines, our host country, will continue to be able to put food on the table as they cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” Masatsugu Asakawa, ADB president, said.

    “This unique program will combine the core strengths of the government, ADB, and domestic and global philanthropic, private entities to improve the health, living conditions, and resilience of households most affected by the pandemic,” he added.

    The ADB said the first deliveries of the project – 2,000 50-kilogram sacks of rice – were successfully made on March 31 in the cities of Caloocan, Manila, Pasay, and Quezon, with food varieties and households chosen based on government guidelines.

    More food, including rice, drinks, and canned sardines, tuna, and corned beef, will be delivered to households in Malabon on Friday, according to the multilateral institution.

    “ADB’s $5 million grant will complement initiatives of the government and the private sector. Through collaboration with philanthropic, private entities, ADB aims to attract more contributions to support the expansion of the program, so more vulnerable households can be supported and for longer periods of time,” the agency said.

    The new program builds on ADB’s support to the Philippine government in its fight against COVID-19. On March 14, ADB approved a $3-million grant to help the government purchase emergency medical supplies and deliver immediate and effective health care services.

    On March 18, ADB also announced an initial package of approximately $6.5 billion to address the immediate needs of its developing member countries, including the Philippines, as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. – With Jocelyn Montemayor