Cash transfer source of inspiration, transformation for poor – Noy
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - January 13, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - With more than 10 million Filipino children benefiting from the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, President Aquino said yesterday he was surprised that the stipend for the household-beneficiaries had become a source of inspiration and transformation for the marginalized sector.

Speaking at the Conference on Sustaining the Gains of the CCT Program in the Philippines at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) headquarters in Mandaluyong City, Aquino said the undertaking addressed poverty in a sustainable manner.

“When we were discussing the program early on in the administration, I wondered if the stipend and support given to families would uplift them from their situations. I believe we have proven that – with enough political will, the right and prudent concentration of resources and funds, and the proper implementation of a solution borne of correct identification of problem – massive transformation can take place. And, far beyond the drastic increase in CCT coverage, massive transformation is taking place,” the President said.

“Some quarters have failed to understand the key principle behind the CCT: its effects are generational. All the beneficiaries covered by the program, and the society in general, will be able to reap the full benefits of government’s support long after I return to private life,” he added.

The ADB provides partial funding for the CCT program and regularly evaluates its implementation to determine whether it will continue providing loans for the purpose.

The monthly cash grant for CCT beneficiaries is tied with other government programs such as medical check ups for children and pregnant women as well as enrolment in public schools.

Aquino said 10.18 million Filipino children are covered by the CCT program, with 1.9 million of them enrolled in high school.

A study of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies and United Nations Children’s Fund in May last year showed that the number of out-of-school youth decreased from 2.9 million in 2008 to 1.2 million in 2013.

Aquino said 1.55 million CCT families or 7.7 million Filipinos were lifted out of poverty based on results of the latest assessment conducted by the National Household Targeting System.

Students who chose to enroll in technical-vocational programs under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority were able to secure permanent jobs, the President said.

The government increased the CCT budget from P62 billion in 2015 to P62.7 billion this year to cover 4.6 million households.

$400-M ADB grant

Touched by the testimony of a CCT beneficiary in Cebu, ADB chief Takehiko Nakao said yesterday he personally recommended the approval of an additional $400-million loan for the project.

Nakao said he was fortunate to meet with CCT beneficiaries in Cebu in February 2015.

“I was touched when one of them said she was able to finish schooling with the support of the CCT program,” he said. “She was enthusiastic and is looking forward to a better future.”

Nakao said the additional funding for the CCT program would be released soon.

He noted that the government’s CCT program had become a strategy to bring about lasting change.

Nakao said the CCT program helps poor children finish basic and secondary education, improving their health and enhancing future employment potentials.

“The goal is to break a vicious cycle that has trapped millions of Filipino families in poverty,” he said.

“We are proud to be a partner of the Philippine government in curbing poverty in the region,” he added.

The bank first provided a $400-million loan to the Philippines in 2010 under its social protection support project. Partners of the Philippines for the CCT program include the World Bank, the Australian government and other groups.

Nakao lauded President Aquino and his administration for the CCT program.

“This program is a model for developing countries in the world. ADB looks forward to our continued partnership in promoting the shared vision for a Philippines free of poverty,” Nakao said.

The $400-million loan is payable in 25 years, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said.

Soliman said the World Bank provided $450 million in funding over five years.

The ADB and WB grants cover 999,000 household-beneficiaries. The rest of the beneficiaries are funded directly by the government, Soliman said.

She said the loans that would be part of the government’s budget would ensure continuity of the CCT program even after Aquino’s term.

Soliman added they had been working with the Senate and the House of Representatives to institutionalize the CCT program as requested by the beneficiaries so it would not be a victim of politics.

She said the law would guide future administrations as to how to implement the program. But Soliman admitted there might be no more time to pass the proposal because of the upcoming campaign period.

Soliman said the CCT would be an election issue because it could be a guide in choosing the country’s next leaders.

She cited a Social Weather Stations survey, which showed that a majority of respondents would vote for the presidential candidate who would continue the CCT program.  

– With Rainier Allan Ronda

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