Social Amelioration Program cut in GCQ areas, where not everyone can go back to work

Alexis Romero - Philstar.com
Social Amelioration Program cut in GCQ areas, where not everyone can go back to work
Photo dated April 30 shows tricycle drivers from Mandaluyong City seated inside City Hall to claim their cash aid under the Social Amelioration Program.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — Only areas that remain under enhanced community quarantine or ECQ would benefit from the second tranche of the government's aid program for sectors sidelined by the coronavirus pandemic, Malacañang said yesterday.

The government has eased the quarantine restrictions in most parts of the country but has placed "high-risk" Metro Manila, Laguna, and Cebu City under a "modified" ECQ from May 16-31.

Under a modified ECQ, movement will be limited for obtaining essential services and work and selected manufacturing and processing plants can operate although they are only allowed to employ half of their workforce.

Limited transport services for essential goods and services will be available and physical classes will remain suspended.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the second tranche of aid from the P200-billion social amelioration program (SAP) would be given to households in ECQ areas because of limited funds.

He noted that the number of intended beneficiaries of SAP has been raised to 23 million households from 18 million households.

"The recommendation of the IATF (Inter-agrncy Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) to provide assistance from the first tranche of the Social Amelioration Program to five million families has been approved...The number of beneficiaries is no longer 18 million. It was increased to five million," Roque said at a press briefing.

"But because the funds given by Congress is limited, only those who will remain under ECQ will receive (assistance)...During the first month, all areas under ECQ will receive aid. During the second month, only those living in ECQ areas will get aid. No aid will be given to those in GCQ (general community quarantine) areas," he added.

Earlier this month, Roque said the government may discontinue the SAP in GCQ areas because most people in these places are now allowed to return to work.

Under GCQ, mass transportation is permitted but in a reduced capacity and selected business establishments can reopen but are required to observe social distancing and health measures.

Roque said the IATF would come up with policies for sectors in GCQ areas who are still not allowed to report for work like employees of gyms and luxury stores.

"For now, we are completing the first tranche of the SAP and we have given assistance to 92.3 percent of the beneficiaries," he said.

"We still have ti give aid to the remaining five million people...who were not included in the initial list of 18 million (intended beneficiaries)...Allow us to finish this first and then we can go to the assistance, if there are any, for people in GCQ areas who cannot work."

Roque said local governments that only managed to distribute subsidies to 80 percent of their constituents would be issued a show cause letter, which would require them to explain why the giving of aid was not finished.
He said the government has enough funds to support its aid programs for now. He noted that the administration has a list of agencies with uncommitted funds that can be realigned to pandemic response.

"Our assistance is really valid for two months and we still have remaining funds from the DOF (Department of Finance) for the small business...assistance called Salary Subsidy Program, which is enough for two months and this is worth P51 billion," Roque said.

"For now, we’re doing fine. But we still do not know up to when this problem will last," he added.

Roque assured the public that the government would continue to seek funding sources for its aid programs while the country is grappling with the pandemic.

"The president has promised that he would sell the CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) if necessary. We will provide help to the needy especially those who will remain under ECQ," the Palace spokesman said.

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