President Rodrigo Duterte, anxious over the impact of the pandemic over his countrymen, will address the concerns hampering the swift delivery of the emergency subsidy for low-income households, Senate President Vicente Sotto III has disclosed.
“I was on the phone with [Finance] Secretary [Carlos] Dominguez and we discussed the issues being pointed out by the senators getting their feedback from the mayors,” Sotto said in a message to reporters on Sunday.
At the same time, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles addressed concerns raised by many elderly that pensioners were excluded from the government’s two-month emergency subsidy program.
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Nograles said Monday the target beneficiaries of the aid were the poor who were not receiving any pension to help them stand up to the effects of the coronavirus.
In related developments, League of Cities of the Philippines president Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia is seeking the help of Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista to issue a clear and specific statement on the beneficiaries qualified under the DSWD guidelines to receive financial assistance from the government.
Leonardia said in a two-page letter to Bautista there was a “growing perception” and misinterpretation through the mass media that there is enough budget to “cover all lower-income households.”
Meanwhile, League of Provinces of the Philippines president Marinduque Gov. Presbitero Velasco Jr. on Monday said the distribution of social amelioration benefits under the DSWD was becoming “problematic.”
Interviewed on Dobol B sa News TV, heard nationwide, Velasco urged local government units to only include families qualified based on DSWD’s circular.
He pointed out that some residents were expecting all of them would receive the P5,000 to P8,000 aid earmarked for households affected by the Luzon Enhanced Community Quarantine.
Citing the DSWD memorandum circular, Velasco noted that the program prioritized beneficiaries of 4Ps, informal economy workers, and other households in vulnerable sectors.
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Nograles said while the elderly or senior citizens were among the target beneficiaries of the program, they should come from low-income families.
“Pensioners are not included in the low-income families. So, the first criteria (sic) is low-income families and among the low-income families, priority is senior citizens,” he said in a virtual press briefing.
In his message to reporters, Sotto said: “All are well taken and, in fact, he called (me up) to tell me that the President wanted to inform us that they will straighten out the confusion brought about by the database of the Department of Social Welfare and Development that does not tally with local government units database.”
The subsidies, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000, aim to benefit 18 million poor Filipino families, including beneficiaries of the government’s Pantawid ng Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development said 18 million families were expected to receive cash assistance on top of food packs.
Guidelines released by the DSWD on the social amelioration program state that families entitled to the cash grant would be approached by representatives of their respective local government units.
Aside from the elderly from low-income families, beneficiaries also include homeless Filipinos, “no work, no pay” workers, farmers and fishermen, and drivers of public utility vehicles.
In his message, Sotto also said: “One of our suggestions is to broaden the coverage of the cash subsidy or amelioration. I know what he will say but let’s leave it to him tomorrow (Monday).”
In his first report to Congress Monday last, the President said the Department of Finance would “provide technical assistance to the DSWD in forming a consolidated database that will host COVID-19 social amelioration programs.”
“The database will be derived from existing beneficiary lists submitted by government agencies and LGUs, and will be used to determine the subsidy amounts for household beneficiaries,” the report said.
Bautista had said more than 700 Parañaque residents were among those who first received the P8,000 cash aid in Metro Manila last Friday.
Poor families in other regions are also qualified to receive cash assistance based on their daily minimum wage.
In the national capital, DSWD said Monday residents of Metro Manila would receive lockdown cash aid before April 9, Maundy Thursday, four weeks into the month-long lockdown to check the pandemic.
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Some 18 million families in Luzon that barangay officials selected as beneficiaries would receive P8,000 each under the Bayanihan Heal as One Act.
There have also been reports that the distribution of assistance in provinces have encountered initial delays due to difficulty in consolidating data on beneficiaries from island towns.
The DSWD revised its protocol to allow the distribution pending the submission of requirements, Bautista told dzMM, beamed nationwide.
Amid all these efforts exerted by the government, the labor group Associated Labor Unions lauded the government’s move to increase the budget of the Department of Labor and Employment intended for cash assistance and cash for work schemes for formal and informal sector workers who were rendered unemployed by the Enhanced Community Quarantine.
“The additional budget will help minimize restiveness among a huge swath of unemployed employees and their families desperate for cash assistance and those on the brink of starvation and poverty,” ALU executive vice president Gerard Seno said.
He said adding more budget into efforts of government to help workers get by the ECQ period will also put the country’s workforce at the heart of priorities of the nation’s battle to minimize the spread of COVID-19.
However, Seno said there was still a wide deficit on the number of beneficiaries who have yet to receive the cash dole three weeks into the lockdown due to constraints in payroll submission and other stringent requirements.
Meanwhile, Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers Rep. France Castro pushed yet once more for fast-tracking the social amelioration programs like those after the Yolanda typhoon and the Bohol earthquake.
“The administration should learn the lessons of past aid programs: end the dilly-dallying and cut the red tape…” Castro said
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