Guevarra: 4Ps subsidies cannot be suspended over COVID-19 vaccination status

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Guevarra: 4Ps subsidies cannot be suspended over COVID-19 vaccination status
A health worker holds up a vial of China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine during the first phase of vaccinations for health workers at a hospital in Manila on March 1, 2021.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 6:27 p.m.) — The government cannot suspend or terminate government subsidies under the 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) if a beneficiary is not vaccinated against COVID-19, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Monday.

This was after Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said over the weekend that the agency wants unvaccinated beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer program "disincentivized" if they continue to resist taking jabs.

But Guevarra pointed out that beneficiaries of the 4Ps Act have already qualified for the subsidy. "They become legally entitled to the conditional cash transfer benefits, provided they continue to comply with all the conditions under Section 11 of the law," he explained.

"The cash transfer is, therefore, a transaction between the government, through the [Department of Social Welfare and Development], and the qualified household beneficiary," Guevarra added.

The DOJ secretary also stressed that Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 stated that vaccination cards shall not be an additional requirement for government transactions.

"Hence, non-vaccination against COVID-19 cannot be a ground for suspension or termination of conditional cash transfer benefits if the beneficiary household has already qualified, and continues to qualify, under the 4Ps Act," Guevarra also said.

Last month, Guevarra also said the Department of Labor and Employment would align its pronouncements on requiring vaccination of workers with the said law.

Malacañang meanwhile said the 4Ps law would need to be amended even as the government is trying to ramp up its COVID-19 vaccination to reopen the economy and to restore jobs.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque noted that Republic Act (RA) No. 11310, which institutionalized the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), identified the sectors who may benefit from the cash transfers.

"Well, I think it (COVID-19 vaccination) can be required in 4Ps but maybe we need to amend the law," Roque said at a press briefing.

"It (4Ps) is not just an executive program. It was passed into law by Congress through RA 11310. There is a provision there on how to amend the law and I think it is a valid reason to require vaccination in exchange for the 4Ps benefits," he added.

While the law is not yet amended, Roque said, the social welfare department should study the proposal to require 4Ps beneficiaries to be inoculated since the agency is tasked to implement the program.

Roque previously said mandating COVID-19 vaccination might not be necessary since more Filipinos are willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The government aims to fast-track the administering of COVID-19 jabs to achieve its goal of inoculating at least 50% of the Philippines' population by yearend. Officials have admitted that vaccine hesitation, especially among the elderly remains a challenge.

As of Nov. 7, about 29.48 million people or 38.21% of the country's eligible population have been fully vaccinated. Close to 90% or 89.85% of the eligible population of Metro Manila, the country's economic center, have been fully inoculated.

At the same press briefing, Roque reported that 462,160 individuals were vaccinated last Sunday, the highest number of inoculated persons during a weekend. He also welcomed a Social Weather Stations poll conducted last September which indicated that 64 percent of Filipinos were willing to get vaccinated, higher than the 55 percent recorded in June.

"Good job everyone! If it is true that 64% are willing to get vaccinated, that is already enough to achieve population protection because population protection (requires the vaccination of) 50%-70% (of the population)," Roque said in Filipino.  — with reports from The STAR/Emmanuel Tupas and The STAR/Alexis Romero





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