DILG proposes ‘no vax, no subsidy’ for 4Ps folk | Inquirer News

DILG proposes ‘no vax, no subsidy’ for 4Ps folk

Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya

MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Saturday said the government was looking at excluding beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, or 4Ps, from receiving subsidies under the antipoverty program if they do not get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which implements the program, however, maintains that vaccination remains voluntary and is not covered by the 4Ps law.


Citing reports from mayors around the country, DILG spokesperson Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said “many” of the more than 4 million 4Ps beneficiaries had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 and some even refused inoculation.


New condition

To remedy this situation, the DILG has proposed to “disincentivize” the unvaccinated among the government aid recipients, he said.

“The 4Ps is called a conditional transfer because before you can get your regular subsidy from the government, you have to meet certain conditions,” Malaya said in an interview with dzBB radio. “We will just add another condition which is vaccination.”

“If they will not get vaccinated, they will not receive any 4Ps subsidy from the government,” he said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire had said that the government is looking at implementing a vaccine mandate as it wants to achieve herd immunity.

Give incentives instead

It isn’t clear whether the proposed mandate was for the entire population or just for certain sectors as some doctors are advocating.

Vergeire said that other means to boost jab acceptance, especially in the provinces, had already been used, such as information drives, incentives and house-to-house vaccination.


Reacting to the reports about the support for mandated vaccination of the Department of Health (DOH), Vice President Leni Robredo said it would be more effective to encourage Filipinos to overcome their hesitancy to get their shots.

“They should be incentivized to get vaccinated rather than punished if they don’t want to be vaccinated,” she said during a visit to Bacolod City on Saturday.

“We have seen in our programs that when you give incentives, people agree on their own free will and I think, it’s the more effective way,” Robredo said, citing her own campaign to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

She said her office had set up a Vaccine Express which had gone to the remote places to vaccinate people. It has also volunteered to vaccinate overseas Filipino workers, Robredo said.

Malaya said the proposal was discussed by Interior Secretary Eduardo Año during a meeting of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. It was also submitted to the DSWD for comment.

Should it be approved, “we are asking the DSWD to issue a memorandum circular to their field offices” for the guidelines of the new condition for beneficiaries of the program, he said.

Malaya, who could not be reached by the Inquirer to elaborate on the proposal, did not say what the guidelines may include. He also did not say in the radio interview whether the “no vaccination, no subsidy” policy would depend on the availability of the jabs and whether beneficiaries would lose their entire subsidy or just parts of it.

The conditional cash transfer program was institutionalized by Republic Act No. 11310, the 4Ps Act, which was signed by President Duterte in August 2019.A total of 4.227 million households have benefited from the program as of June 2020. The government is targeting 4.4 million households, according to data from the DSWD.

Going by the average household size of 4.4 in the 2015 census, this translates to roughly 18.6 million Filipinos who have benefited from the program.

Family dev’t sessions

Under the law, each beneficiary family will receive a subsidy per month up to P3,450. It is composed of a P750 health and nutrition grant, a P600 rice subsidy, and an educational grant amounting to P300, P500 or P700, depending on the level of the student, for up to three children per household.

Beneficiaries receive the subsidies on condition that: a pregnant member of the household must get prenatal and postnatal health-care and be attended during childbirth by a trained professional; parents or guardians must attend “family development sessions,” which include topics on responsible parenting, health and nutrition; children age 0 to 5 must have regular health checkups and vaccines; children age 6 to 14 must be dewormed twice a year; and children age 3 to 18 must enroll in school and attend at least 85 percent of class days monthly.

Asked for comment, DSWD spokesperson Assistant Secretary Glenda Relova said COVID-19 vaccination among 4Ps beneficiaries was “voluntary,” but the department was encouraging everyone to get the jabs.

Under A5 group

“And with the current 4Ps law, [mandatory vaccination of recipients] is not part of the conditions of the program,” she said in a message to the Inquirer.

According to Relova, as of Nov. 5, there were 526,565 beneficiaries who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, or around 12 percent of the total households covered by the program.

The 4Ps beneficiaries belong to the A5 group (indigent) composed of around 13 million individuals who are targets for inoculation.

According to data from the National Vaccination Operations Center as of Nov. 2, more than 3 million, or only 23.88 percent, in the A5 group have been vaccinated.

Relova said the benefits of the vaccine were “continuously being discussed” with the beneficiaries during monthly family development sessions required for beneficiaries who are parents or guardians.

Malaya acknowledged there could be legal pushback and government lawyers were already studying if mandatory vaccination could be added as a condition for 4Ps, without the need to amend the law.

Based on the DILG’s discussion with the DSWD, Malaya said the health component condition was “flexible.”

“We are in a public health emergency,” he explained. “The law can be interpreted to mean that [the mandatory vaccination] is for the health of the family and can be added as a component of the 4Ps.”According to Malaya, the move was part of the DILG’s efforts to ramp up the vaccination rate especially outside Metro Manila.

Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force Against COVID-19 (NTF) earlier said that 4Ps beneficiaries would be among the targets of a mandated vaccination plan.

Former NTF adviser Dr. Tony Leachon said he supported mandatory vaccination “for the public good.”

It is “the only way to fast-track the vaccination program and reduce vaccine hesitancy” and decrease hospitalization and deaths in high-risk populations, Leachon told the Inquirer.

However, Leachon does not support holding back the mandated subsidies for the poor.

“I don’t agree that they would be deprived of benefits if they will not be vaccinated. Massive public awareness campaign to address vaccine hesitancy issues, provision of ‘ayuda’ and overall moral support should be provided,” he said.

Former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral also supports mandatory vaccination, but only for certain sectors, such as health-care workers and other essential workers, government employees and teachers.

“Many countries have mandatory vaccination programs in various forms. They subscribe to the principle that the common good takes precedence over individual rights,” Cabral told the Inquirer.

Asked if she also agreed with mandating vaccination specifically for the indigent population, she said: “Not unless they fulfill [the] criteria I mentioned. I don’t think mandate should be based on socioeconomic class.”

Vaccine advocate Dr. Minguita Padilla said the government must first exhaust other means to beat hesitancy to the jabs before it implements a vaccine mandate.

“Those who get vaccinated must feel the benefits of their choice. This is not discrimination. This is simply awarding responsible behavior and helping the country in the process,” Padilla said in a text message.

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“Only if all efforts at education, reason, incentives and limitations fail, should mandatory vaccination be carried out,” she added.

TAGS: 4Ps, Cash aid

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