Local leaders — key to reaching all sectors

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - August 5, 2008 - 12:00am

The last report of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo about the state of the nation narrated programs that show her government’s focus on the concerns of the common Filipino. The main thing that caught my attention was the mention of typical figures in our society who find themselves increasingly at a straggle to cope with the present situation — the average housewife fending for her family, the ordinary farmer who is at the same time the family’s breadwinner, the hardworking students, the 41-year old head of the family who finds it hard to make both ends meet, the noble teachers, the overseas contract workers and the ordinary Filipino.

Lately, we learned of specific measures that were undertaken by the administration to directly mitigate the plight of the poor and the underprivileged sectors of the society. In the wake of the rice shortage, the DSWD distributed family access cards nationwide to ensure that the poor sectors benefit from the low price of quality NFA rice. Strict monitoring was also done by the Department of Agriculture on the market to prevent hoarders and speculators from taking advantage of the rice crisis and cause an artificial price increase of the basic commodity. Subsidies were also given from a P84 billion purse from VAT collections to help poor families pay for electricity, to pay for college scholarships of poor students, to help jeepney drivers convert to more fuel-saving devices so that their daily earnings will increase and to convert public lighting facilities so that electricity costs will be lower. A large amount was also given to farmers to help them buy fertilizers and improve irrigation facilities so that harvest will bring more yields. To address the incidence of hunger especially among poor schoolchildren, the Food-for-School Program is being funded. We are also happy to note that our government has replicated Brazil’s family stipend program where families receive cash coupons on the condition that their children attend school. Citing their example, this columnist wrote that this program became the catalyst for increased family incomes and improved economy as a whole in Brazil, which made it rise from the once poorest country that it was. We now have a similar program called Pantawid Pamilya which we hope will soon have the same positive effect.

Despite all these efforts, the arm of government continues to wax short to alleviate the seemingly increasing poverty especially in the farfetched municipalities of the country which still cannot be reached by public transportation. We hear of resounding complaints and discouraging surveys that show only a few have been benefited from the above-mentioned subsidies.

We appreciate the President’s thorough and detailed report that show how her government tried to reach the poorest of the poor. Despite what the critics say, I would like to acknowledge her efforts knowing that she is doing her best. Unfortunately, as the global crisis continue to escalate, the best efforts seem not enough in the face of the increasing difficulties that most Filipino families have to cope up with.

We underscore the importance of the local government units down to the smallest barangay in making sure that government’s meager resources are efficiently and equitably distributed primarily to the most needy and disadvantaged. The concern, compassion and efficiency of these local leaders will ensure that benefits from the government trickle down to everyone, most especially to our poor and disadvantaged brothers and sisters.

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