DSWD agrees with Drilon: Cash instead of rice for 4Ps beneficiaries
MANILA, Philippines— Senate President Pro-Tempore Franklin Drilon on Wednesday pushed for the provision of cash subsidies instead of rice supply to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), citing the “terrible” system of distributing heavy packs of rice to families, which incur additional administrative costs.
In a hearing on the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Drilon got Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo to agree to his proposal, adding that the country’s economic managers had already agreed to his idea.
The provision of rice subsidies to beneficiary families is one component of government’s conditional cash transfer program, with 20 kilos priced P32.50 per kilo allocated per month.
The DSWD has a proposed allocation of P23 billion for rice subsidies under the 4Ps program next year.
“Let’s give cash instead. Why are we insisting on a rice subsidy? Rice coupons?… If you give it in cash, it doesn’t mean you’re not fighting hunger,” Drilon told social welfare officials Wednesday morning.
“We will insert a special provision (in the budget) which will provide that the rice subsidy shall be given in the form of cash. And that grant should not, in any way, allow or authorize the distribution of actual rice, which is terrible,” Drilon said.
At this point, Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, chimed in and asked: “They might just buy liquor or buy drugs?”
“The fear there is it could be used for evil matters,” Legarda said.
Drilon then responded: “Ganon din ‘yon (it won’t be any different).”
He said anyone who would like to misuse government’s subsidies will do so anyway: “Why? If you have a rice coupon, you can just exchange it with a trader for drugs.”
“Why do we have to go through some system when, in fact, we can help the poor and be efficient?” said Drilon.
He told Taguiwalo that he had already secured the concurrence of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic Development Authority (Neda) Director General Ernesto Pernia in an earlier budget briefing to convert the rice subsidy into cash.
To this, Taguiwalo responded: “If Congress allows us to do that, then we will be most happy to implement it, because we would like all families to enjoy rice subsidies, which will be in cash once you approve the budget.”
The government targets to retain 4.4 million beneficiaries of the 4Ps program next year, with a proposed P78.686-billion budget for 2017. The program provides cash subsidies on the condition of compliance with pre-requisites, such as regular health check-ups for pregnant women and children, and enrollment of children from daycare through high school. JE
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