Palace clarifies: P200 monthly aid meant for 4Ps beneficiaries
MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang on Thursday clarified that the P200 monthly subsidy the government was releasing to poor households would primarily benefit those already receiving conditional cash grants under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
“The P200 monthly subsidy is on top of the cash grants already being given to beneficiaries in our 4Ps. We’re just adding P200 in aid [to help them cope] with inflation due to the oil price hikes,” Communication Secretary Martin Andanar said in an interview over radio station dzBB.
As of Feb. 28, he said there were about 4.8 million households, comprising about 12 million people, enrolled in the 4Ps and receiving P750 monthly in health and nutrition grant, P600 in rice subsidy, and educational assistance for a maximum of three children per household amounting to P700 for senior high school, P500 for junior high school and P300 for elementary.
Andanar, who is also acting presidential spokesperson, said that with the decision to retain the excise and value-added taxes on fuel, the government would use its earnings from these imposts to give more aid to the poor.
“The earnings [from the taxes] will be added to the funds that the government will give to our fellow countrymen who are poor,” he explained.
On the complaint that middle-class families would not be receiving any subsidy, Andanar said the government did not have enough funds at the moment but added that the proposed four-day workweek and extended work-from-home arrangements were intended for them as these would help lessen their expenses.
“It’s sad, the middle class is really affected, but we have to face reality that there is a limit to government funds, it’s not a well that never runs out of water,” he said.
Fuel tax suspension
Lawmakers continued to press for the suspension of fuel taxes as they criticized President Duterte’s approval to give P200 in monthly aid to poor families.
“The suggested P200 per month doleout to poor families in lieu of the suspension of the collection of excise taxes on fuel is insulting and pathetic,” Barangay Health Workers Rep. Angelica Natasha Co, a member of the House economic affairs committee, said in a statement on Thursday.
She instead proposed a P500 wage subsidy in May, June, and July to all private sector workers, including informal sector workers nationwide.
Co said government workers already have the salary standardization pay hike in their agency budgets for 2022.
She also pushed for the return of free bus rides on the Edsa carousel, including free train rides on LRT, MRT, and PNR on Mondays and Fridays.
“These are the kinds of solutions Filipino families need now and in the coming months,” Co said, adding that these interventions were doable and could immediately be deployed.
In a separate statement also on Thursday, House Deputy Minority Leader and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate hit the government for being “heartless” to the plight of Filipinos amid the nonstop increases in oil prices.
“Instead of suspending the excise tax on oil for six months, they preferred a token or a meager P200 aid per family per month or four-day workweek,” Zarate said.
“Not only is it useless, it is also a big insult to our people who are being forced to pay taxes, “ he said.
Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo insisted that the government should suspend the excise on fuel products, saying that it was important that people receive “immediate relief.”
Wage hike pushed
“By not having to pay (fuel) tax, Filipinos will quickly get much-needed ‘ayuda,’” Quimbo said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
Labor groups, dissatisfied with the government response to workers’ woes due to runaway fuel prices, also pressed their demand for a wage hike.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said the proposal of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) to implement a four-day workweek would not help workers cope with high prices of commodities.
TUCP also reminded the government and employers that workers could not be compelled to work more than eight hours a day without their consent.
“We remind the proponent that while this is a proposal to economize by lessening consumption, it will not result in lowering the prices of petroleum products nor will it bring down the costs of goods and services,” TUCP president Raymond Mendoza said.
Describing the government’s planned P200 monthly aid for poor families an “insult,” Kilusang Mayo Uno chair Elmer Labog pressed their demand to increase the daily minimum wage nationwide to P750.
Instead of giving P200 a month, the KMU leader said the government should suspend the excise and VAT on fuel products to bring down prices.
Partido Manggagawa (PM) added that the proposed four-day workweek and “wage subsidy” should not replace a wage hike.
“The P100 increase in daily minimum wage we are proposing is not even a wage hike. It is just wage recovery,” said PM chair Rene Magtubo. —With a report from DONA Z. PAZZIBUGAN
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