IT was reported by Negros Oriental 1st District Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Appropriations, that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has in its treasury some P10 billion of “savings” from the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).
The Duterte administration’s economic managers have decided to use part of this savings — P6.5 billion — to increase the DSWD’s Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situations (AICS) program. DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said they are coordinating with the economic managers to ensure that the P10-billion SAP funds will be properly spent and will reach the rightful beneficiaries. The department has also its Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) program which can also use the unutilized SAP funds.
‘Every year, the government allocates and spends billions of pesos for subsidies … yet we do not know if the lives of the beneficiaries have really improved for the better.’
The DSWD will provide LAG to a beneficiary-family of its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), provided that at least one family member is an informal economic worker and whose livelihood, occupation, or work, has been affected by the enhanced community quarantine.
Also at the House of Representatives, a lawmaker from Cebu is seeking to provide assistance to the estimated 7.6 million families who experienced hunger, according to a survey of the Social Weather Stations.
Cebu 1st District Rep. Raul del Mar is proposing to include in the DSWD’s proposed budget of P171.22 billion for next year the small amount of “just” P399 billion. “This is not much, it is just P399 billion,” said Congressman Del Mar.
Del Mar’s idea is to give the poorest families SAP-like subsidies every month. He explained, “The ideal (dole-out) is every month. If we give it in 12 equal tranches monthly every year, we would have P1.2 trillion, That is why I said P399 billion is small because it should be P1.2 trillion.”
Del Mar said “since we cannot afford to help 7.6 million families, let us first help the families in severe hunger to start with, as we go along we can include those families in moderate hunger.” If an average SAP subsidy of P6,588 will be extended next year to 2.2 million families who experienced severe hunger monthly, the government will have to shell out P173.9 billion, he added.
We believe the government should revisit this national policy of distributing cash to poor families. Several senators have already pointed out the need for a serious study on how much in economic terms these dole-outs have helped raise the level of poverty.
Every year, the government allocates and spends billions of pesos for subsidies, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, yet we do not know if the lives of the beneficiaries have really improved for the better.