MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Monday frowned on suggestions to trim the cash aid given to each of the 18 million households so that more beneficiaries could be included, stressing that there are enough funds to expand the coverage of the assistance.
“I think they’d better talk to (Finance Secretary Carlos Dominquez) before they say there are budget constraints. DOF (Department of Finance) and DBM (Department of Budget and Management) assured us of sources,” Sotto told reporters in a Viber message on Monday when asked if he was open to amending the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
Specifically, the move was meant to lower the cash subsidy to be given to each family so that more beneficiaries will be covered by the social amelioration program (SAP) of the national government.
Under the law, which Sotto principally authored, the national government set aside P200 billion cash assistance to low-income households affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
Initially, some 18 million poor families will be given an emergency cash subsidy, ranging from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months.
“Bakit ibaba eh kung kaya yun (P6,000) and (P8,000)? Ang liit na nga nung (P6,000) and (P8,000) ah (Why would they want to lower it when we can afford P6,000 and P8,000. The P6,000 and P8,000 is already small)?” Sotto asked.
“Wag nilang ipilit na walang pera gobyerno. Meron (They should not say that the government has no money. There are)!” he added.
Sotto further noted that during the time they were deliberating on the law, the senators were assured that government-owned and controlled corporation (GOCCs) alone may already come up with P200-billion, excluding the savings accrued from last year and other sources mentioned by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Thus, Sotto said, the remaining problem they were concerned with then was the identification of families and information dissemination.
Some lawmakers, including Sotto, earlier called for middle-class families to also receive assistance from the government as the country continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
To date, Philippine health officials have confirmed 4,648 COVID-19 cases in the country. Of the number, 297 patients have died while 197 have already recovered from the disease.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this .