Marcos cool to rice instead of money as 4Ps aid

Helen Flores - The Philippine Star
Marcos cool to rice instead of money as 4Ps aid
President Marcos convenes a meeting with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other agencies yesterday to discuss suggested reforms to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The government will still consider the proposal to give rice instead of cash aid to beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) even if President Marcos and Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian think it may be logistically difficult.

Gatchalian said the matter was tackled during a sectoral meeting with Marcos at Malacañang yesterday, which focused on strengthening the 4Ps, the conditional cash transfer program that started during the Arroyo administration.

“We always say it’s logistically hard,” Gatchalian told reporters when asked to comment on the recommendation of Agriculture Undersecretary Roger Navarro to have rice as assistance instead of money.

“But we continue to talk with the Department of Agriculture on how to implement this. So logistically it’s hard if you think about it. We have 4.4 million beneficiaries spread across different areas in the country,” Gatchalian pointed out.

He said providing rice subsidy to 4Ps beneficiaries may also go against the directive of the President to ensure speedy and convenient access to all assistance from the government.

“We’re not saying no. Studies are ongoing, but taking into account the logistics that are needed so that our countrymen won’t suffer,” Gatchalian said.

The DSWD is also looking at distributing rice during family development sessions, which are held once a month.

Gatchalian, however, said they have to address some issues, including rice storage while waiting FDS.

“Two, because the payouts we give are two months. How will they carry that P1,200 worth of rice –these are women who usually reside in remote villages,” he said.

Gatchalian said socio-economic planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan advised them to conduct a cost analysis so the government aid would not “diminish.”

Navarro earlier proposed to convert the 4Ps aid from money to rice from the National Food Authority, saying it would spare the poor from the effects of the volatile market prices since they also buy the staple using their cash grant.

To protect the poorest Filipinos from rising prices, President Marcos directed government agencies to make the 4Ps cash grants be more responsive to the effects of inflation.

He ordered the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and the DSWD to conduct a study to find the “best index” to use to adjust government cash grants.

“One of the things he tasked us to study is how not to diminish or reduce the amount of financial assistance that we give to the poor,” Gatchalian said.

He said the President wanted to ensure that social protection programs are not just implemented timely, but also responsive to the challenges brought by inflation.

While economic managers are implementing measures to tame inflation, the President ordered the agencies to come up with formula for the grants so that it can be adjusted based on the current prices and rate of inflation, Gatchalian said.

“That’s the gist of the meeting: to make sure that the price index is included whether it’s cost of living or price of the essential baskets,” he said.

Under Republic Act 11310 or the 4Ps Act, the DSWD provides for a fixed amount of cash grants to beneficiaries.

Congress needs to pass a new law to increase the amount of cash grant under 4Ps.

Gatchalian said the President wants the study done immediately.

According to Gatchalian, the country’s inflation rate for the bottom 30 percent income households was recorded at 6.7 percent in 2023.

Rice inflation hit 22.6 percent in January, its highest mark since March 2009, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Marcos imposed a price cap on rice for a month last year to contain soaring prices.

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