DSWD chief ready to explain AKAP to lawmakers

Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
DSWD chief ready to explain AKAP to lawmakers
Rex Gatchalian
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — After questions were raised about the budget allocation for the Ayuda para sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKAP), Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian yesterday expressed readiness to explain the program to lawmakers.

Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Gatchalian maintained that AKAP is needed to shield minimum wage earners or those who are considered “near poor” from the impact of inflation.

“We have long wanted that in our department. And if I am invited in any of the chambers, whether Congress or the Senate, I would gladly explain the rationale why we like a program for the near poor. We want to explain why we have that assistance for our minimum wage earners – sales ladies, cashiers in malls, janitors and security guards,” the social welfare chief said.

“They are the ones paying taxes but most of the time, all of the programs in our department are focused on the poorer ones. But they (minimum wage earners) are the ones paying taxes... They are the ones helping the economy, but in times of need, where will they go? The government has to be responsive and I think it’s time that we give them attention,” he added.

Earlier, Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of President Marcos, questioned the P26.7 billion funding for AKAP, describing the outlay as “alien” to her.

According to her, AKAP is an “insertion” by the House of Representatives and that senators were surprised to see the item in the final version of the 2024 national budget. The senator has tied AKAP to a controversial campaign to amend the Constitution through a people’s initiative.

For his part, Gatchalian reiterated that the funding for AKAP remains intact because the DSWD is still crafting the guidelines for its use.

“If you look at the special provision of AKAP in the law, it’s meant for our minimum wage earners as an anti-inflation mechanism. The program is good, what is important is we craft the guidelines so they can be faithful to its mandate under the law,” he said.

Gatchalian added that there is nothing peculiar with the allocation of budget for a program before the crafting of its guidelines as long as the special provision is complied with.

When the General Appropriations Act of 2024 put in a program such as AKAP, Gatchalian said that it was a welcome news to the DSWD since they have been looking at expanding the definition of the vulnerable sector to include near-poor families in the possible beneficiaries.

Gatchalian likewise assured the public that the DSWD will craft the guidelines to ensure the program’s smooth and efficient fulfillment of the agency’s mandate.

He also maintained that the Legislative branch has the power of the purse and that the agency respects their prerogatives in introducing amendments to the national budget.

“Based on their wisdom because they do a lot of public hearings, a lot of committee hearings, they saw the value of including AKAP as an amendment to the DSWD budget,” Gatchalian pointed out.

The DSWD chief cited an instance where the legislative body introduced a new program with budget appropriations in the GAA 2022 under the Social Protection Program for Adolescent Mothers and their Children special provision.

“This one was a program for women, protection of women with P10 million. It was introduced by the legislature as an amendment because there is a need for social protection for women, and teenage mothers, then we crafted the guidelines,” Gatchalian said. — Delon Porcalla

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