MANILA, Philippines — As the Luzon-wide quarantine enters its fourth week, senators are pressing the executive department to quickly “sort out all the kinks” surrounding the distribution of cash aid to some 18 million low-income households.
According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, the national government should reconcile the “wide gap” between the executive department’s projection-based list of beneficiaries to the data generated by local government units (LGUs).
“They should reconcile the wide gap between the DOF/DSWD (Department of Finance/Department of Social Welfare and Development) list based merely on projection and the data generated by the LGUs’ community-based surveys, which is more accurate and updated,” Lacson said in a message to reporters.
Lacson said the disparity is, on the average, at least 40 percent nationwide.
He reiterated that a “bottom-up approach” should be adopted instead of “a top-down method subject of course to validation by the national agencies concerned.”
The senator said the Senate leadership has raised to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III the concerns of senators based on the feedback coming from LGUs and other sectors.
Local officials have earlier complained about the “quota system” that DSWD imposed in every town and city for the P200-billion Social Amelioration Program, which is provided under Republic Act No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Under the provision, some 18 million poor families will be given an emergency cash subsidy, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months.
Lacson further said a better approach would be adjusting the average amount to be distributed per locality “rather than neglect the 40% that cannot be accommodated.”
“Then realign more funds even from the other items from the 2019 unused appropriations to compensate for the difference in the next round,” he added.
Dominguez has assured senators that such concerns would be “straighten(ed) out when the President makes his second weekly report to Congress anytime today,” according to Lacson.
“When the executive asked for authority to be granted to the president by way of legislation, they should have prepared as a matter of foresight. They knew what they wanted but when we gave it to them in 18 hours of marathon session, apparently they were not prepared to execute,” he said in a separate message.
READ: Lacson calls out executive branch for lack of action plan on COVID-19 crisis
“I just hope they sort out all the kinks quickly and before people who lost their jobs due to business inactivity and work stoppage become restless and desperate,” he added.
Meanwhile, Senator Joel Villanueva expressed concern that the objective of the government to give cash subsidy to low-income families seems to be “getting bogged down by details of targeting specific households.”
“We suggest that DSWD make the targeting on an area basis and make sure food and other necessities are distributed in all households in poor areas like Payatas, etc. We have to address hunger now,” Villanueva added.
As for Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, the financial aid given by the national government should have a wider coverage.
“We should increase the number of families receiving financial aid from NG by at least 30%. Will be easier to implement and apolitical,” Recto said in a message to reporters.
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