DSWD to give cash subsidies to low-income families affected by quarantine

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
DSWD to give cash subsidies to low-income families affected by quarantine
Good Samaritans hand out food packs and bottled water to street dwellers along Roxas Boulevard in Manila on March 29, 2020.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines (Update 1, 1:32 p.m.) — Malacañang directed the Department of Social Welfare and Development to provide subsidies to low-income households as part of the temporary emergency measures for the health crisis.

President Rodrigo Duterte on late Monday night announced an unprecedented P200 billion aid package for low-income households and other sectors hit by the stringent quarantine measures intended to contain 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The package, described by Duterte as the "largest and widest social protection program in our country’s history," will provide beneficiaries emergency support for two months based on the regional minimum wage.

"This is the largest assistance provided by the government to our people in our history. It's only now that we are facing a problem like this...(The package seeks) to make up for the loss of economic opportunities due to the quarantine measures in place for COVID-19," the president said in a televised public address Monday night.

"We have allotted 200 billion pesos for low-income households who are badly affected by the current crisis. They are the informal sector and those who live day-to-day on subsistence wages or 'no-work, no-pay' arrangements," he added.

Duterte has placed the entire Luzon under a lockdown to prevent the further spread of COVID-19, a global pandemic that has infected more than 720,000 people worldwide and is widely seen to plunge economies into recession. The disease, which has afflicted about 1,500 persons in the Philippines, may cause the country's economy to slow or even shrink this year, economists said.

Because of the lockdown, which started last March 17 and will end on April 13, majority of Luzon's 57 million population were forced to stay at home, including daily wage earners who now rely on government dole-outs for their basic needs.

"We have P200 billion given by Congress for us to spend. I will use it and everyone will benefit...Those who do not have jobs, those who have jobs, those who are working part-time. The rich are excluded," Duterte said.

The president also vowed to help small businesses and the agriculture sector cope with the impact of the pandemic.

"The government will provide a recovery package especially to micro, small, and medium enterprises to help deal with the economic effects of this pandemic. My economic team is already creating the guidelines for this as I speak," the president said.  

"To our farmers and our fisherfolk: We have not forgotten you and government is now employing quick response measures to help you during the crisis as well as ensure food productivity, availability, and sufficiency during the period of the pandemic. The government is here for you," he added.

Cash subsidies

A memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last March 28 said the emergency subsidy would be extended to 18 million low-income households and would cost P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months, computed based on the prevailing regional minimum wage rates. The subsidy received from the existing conditional cash transfer program and rice subsidy will be considered in the computation of the emergency subsidy.

The DSWD was also tasked to expand the government's existing cash transfer program or come up with another scheme that would provide cash, cash voucher, or goods to households who have no incomes or savings to draw from, including those who are working in the informal economy and those who are not receipients of existing government aid. 

The amount to be distributed must be "adequate to restore capacity to purchase basic food and other essential items during the duration of the quarantine," the memorandum read.

The Department of Finance on Tuesday said 4.3 million families are recipients of the P2,150 average monthly subsidy from the CCT component of DSWD's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) program.

“For those who are already receiving grants from various national and local programs, the government will provide them with a top-up or additional support to meet the P5,000 to P8,000 subsidy amount,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said in a statement.

Each beneficiary-family will receive a monthly subsidy of 5,000 to P8,000 for two months, "to be computed based on the minimum daily wage rates in their respective regions."

Around P97.4 billion is needed per month to finance the subsidy or almost P200 billion for two months, plus administrative costs totaling P5.1 billion, the DOF said. 

Earlier, the National Economic and Development Authority warned that the COVID-19 pandemic may slow economic growth to 4.3% or may even contract the Philippine economy by 0.6% this year if mitigation measures are not implemented. About 116,000 to 1.8 million jobs in the country may be lost because of the pandemic, the economic planning office said. 

NEDA also estimated that a month-long quarantine in Luzon, which accounts for more than 70% of the Philippines' gross domestic product, could result in P298 billion to P1.086 trillion in foregone gross value added.  

'No one will go hungry'

While the government is rolling out a multi-billion peso aid package, Duterte appealed to private institutions and individuals to help those who are affected by the health crisis.

"I still count on everyone to also look out after their fellowmen - their countrymen. To those who have more in life, I implore you to share in the cost of taking care of the less fortunate and keeping our society intact," the president said.  

They have also contributed to our prosperity in one way or (another). So, let us support them in this crisis. Let it be said that, in the hour of our country’s greatest need, we all looked out for and helped each other. Let us open our hearts to the needy," he added.

Duterte urged employers to do their part in protecting the welfare of millions of Filipino households who belong to the formal sector and who depend on them for continuous livelihood.

He also assured local governments of assistance and promised to ensure that nobody would go hungry during the quarantine period.

"Food packs and essential non-food items are also being distributed (to) LGUs (local government units) in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon. Contaminated areas in the Visayas and Mindanao are receiving similar assistance. More will be given to augment the requirements of LGUs in the coming days as we repackage the items in our stockpiles," he said.

"Gagawin ko lahat para walang magutom (I will do everything so that no one will go hungry)."

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