‘Ayuda’ to poor a lot smaller in 2023
MANILA, Philippines — The government dole, called “ayuda” in Filipino, will still be in the budget, but only about a third of the allocation in the previous administration, according to the Senate’s focal person on the 2023 government spending plan.
“‘Ayuda’ will still be in the budget, but it will be a lot smaller. From over P300 billion the previous year, it will be at P110 billion,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chair of the Senate finance committee, said in a radio interview.
“And it will be just limited to the [beneficiaries] of 4Ps, those regarded as among the poorest families,” he added, referring to the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
The Pantawid Pamilya program is a conditional cash transfer to beneficiary households that comply with certain conditionalities, like sending children to school or having children inoculated. It was first introduced in the Philippines in 2008.
‘Waste of public funds’
The cash aid program is in the budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, which was allocated P194.6 billion budget 2023.
But Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno previously said that giving out cash aids to individuals affected by the pandemic was just a “waste of public funds,” claiming that the economy was already “back to where it was before” the pandemic struck.
Diokno issued the statement amid hastening inflation and the continued depreciation of the Philippine peso, which sank to a record-low of 59:$1 last month.
Angara said the Department of Budget and Management had also set aside up to P5 billion in fuel subsidies for small fisherfolks and drivers of public utility vehicles to help cushion the debilitating effects of the skyrocketing fuel prices primarily due to the Russia-Ukraine war.
The senators will also try to augment this appropriation as the chamber starts the period of amendments on the proposed national budget on Monday, he added.
Budget approval set
Upon the intercession of Sen. Grace Poe, he said funds were also allocated for the government’s “Libreng Sakay” (free rides) program as “these programs really benefit ordinary citizens,” he said.
Angara said on Friday that the Senate may approve its version of the proposed P5.3-trillion national budget this week.
The Senate concluded plenary deliberations on Friday, but lawmakers will be allowed to suggest changes on Monday.
“Hopefully by the middle of next week [we will be done with the period of amendments],” Angara earlier told the Inquirer.
Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri earlier said that each proposed budget item should contain specific details on how the taxpayer money would be spent.
After the budget’s passage in the Senate, representatives of both chambers of Congress are set to hold the bicameral conference committee meetings starting Nov. 23 to iron out the differences between the two versions.
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