Gatchalian aims to hike gov’t cash aid to poor from P200 to P450
Senator Sherwin “Win” Gatchalian said he has considered raising the government’s unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program’s per household allotment of P200 to P450, as inflation due to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law hits low-income Filipinos.
In an interview after the Senate Committee on Economic Affairs’ second public hearing on TRAIN-driven inflation and potential mitigating measures on Thursday, Gatchalian, chair of the committee, said the P200 provision is insufficient, especially with prices of basic commodities rising.
“I’m thinking of adjusting it from 200 [pesos] to about 450 to cover others. If you look at the poorest 30% of our population, their biggest consumption, 70% of their expenditure, is on food. This means, you have to cover the increase in food prices of the lower 30% of the population,” Gatchalian said.
The government has allotted P24 billion for UCT, which is divided into three programs: the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4.4 million households), the Social Pension Program (3 million households) and Listahanan Program (2.6 million households).
Government agencies reprimanded
During the public hearing, Gatchalian reprimanded government agencies responsible for the UCT program for not fully implementing the measure, which “was meant to shield Filipinos from price increases.”
According to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the government has only distributed aid to about 4 million households. Agencies target the completion of disbursement to the remaining 6 million families by September.
“We all know dispensing 200 pesos to 10 million households will be a big challenge, but we were assured that by 2018, all beneficiaries would receive their part. Now, you are telling us that you are to complete this by September?” Gatchalian said.
The senator was referring to the Department of Finance’s (DOF) assurance that the P24 billion UCT program would be fully available on January 1, 2018 — the same date the TRAIN law took effect.
“As of the moment, DSWD is looking for ways and means to cut down the payouts. However, we have physical constraints that we have to consider. One, for example, there are areas that are hard to reach, and transporting money to the nearest Landbank branch takes a lot of logistics planning,” DSWD Assistant Secretary for Policy and Plans Noel Macalalad said. /muf