MANILA, Philippines — President Benigno Aquino III is funneling P20 billion into projects to be identified by mayors belonging to the country’s most indigent provinces as part of this administration’s bid to fast-track the escape of poor families from poverty.
This is just a few billion pesos short of the P24.1-billion priority development assistance funds (PDAF) or pork barrel given to representatives (P20.1 billion) and senators (P4.1 billion) in 2012.
Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. said that the President has instructed state social welfare bodies to re-channel part of their funds to the government’s new anti-poverty program dubbed the Bottoms-Up-Budget (BUB) starting in 2014.
“The projects to be funded are poverty reduction projects such as pre-schools, health centers, water supply, reforestation, and flood mitigation. The big difference (from other anti-poverty programs) will be the process: instead of projects being dictated from the top, this time around, they will be decided from the ground, by local government units working closely with their communities. So there will be no duplication,” said Abad in a text message.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, the head of the Bicol regional development council, which was among the provinces to immediately prepare for the BUB project, said that only provinces granted with a “seal of good housekeeping” would be given access to the funds with their allocations dependent on their anti-poverty targets. Salceda said the funding program would be mapped out by a local poverty reduction action team, which would be composed mostly of civil society organizations and would be chaired by Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II.
Salceda said the BUB would give incentives to local government units to mobilize their grass-roots knowledge and resources to come up with the best solution to eradicating poverty in their community.
In his budget message to Congress in 2012, President Aquino bared the pilot testing program for the BUB where 609 of the poorest communities in the country were asked to submit their local poverty reduction action plans for approval.
Salceda said that the BUB would be the fourth piece of Aquino administration’s quartet of anti-poverty programs meant to “lighten the common people’s daily subsistence in the short-term context and mop out poverty in its long-term.” The first three are the K+12 educational concept of the Department of Education (P150 billion budget); the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (P 72 billion); the Kalusugang Pangkalahatan with the Department of Health and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation P105 billion.
Salceda noted that these programs would reduce the out-of-pocket costs of families in education, food, and health to help them maximize their meager income and savings. “For example, whereas before, 80 percent of kids whose mothers did not finish elementary education also did not finish the same, now with K+12 together with these three other programs, families need not wait to exit poverty in order to finish basic education, especially in an economy where it takes families 34 years to exit poverty,” Salceda said. “The real strategic and structural benefits will be reaped by the next administration since the impacts are largely long-term and inter-generational.”
The DSWD budget’s budget has been increased by 15 percent to P56.8 billion this year with the bulk or P44.3 billion, earmarked for 3.8 million indigent households under the 4-Ps program, 68 percent more than the 2.3 million households targeted in 2012.