SENATE President Pro-Tempore Franklin M. Drilon prodded economic managers of President Duterte to convert the amount allotted for the government’s rice subsidy program into outright cash grant for the 4.6 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) next year.
Drilon made the proposal during the Senate committee on finance’s hearing on the P3.350-trillion budget wherein Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ernesto Pernia agreed that it is more beneficial to the 4Ps recipients to receive an outright cash instead of a monthly rice allocation.
“I am glad that our economic managers realize that it is more practical on the part of the government and the 4Ps beneficiaries if the budget for the rice subsidy program is converted into cash grant to augment the monthly stipend received by the poor families,” Drilon said.
Drilon believes that an outright cash grant is more useful for an ordinary Juan dela Cruz for a day-to-day survival than a sack of rice.
The senator estimates the budget for the 20 kilograms of rice per month, at P32.50 per kilo, based on the National Food Authority retail price, will translate approximately to an increase of P600 in the monthly stipend of the 4Ps beneficiaries. The figure was confirmed by Diokno during the hearing.
At present, the beneficiaries of the Conditional Cash Transfer program (CCT) could receive a maximum of P1,400 monthly stipend from the government, he noted.
“It is about time that we increase the amount of cash subsidy that we provide to the poor. The P1,400 cash subsidy is not enough considering the high inflation in the country,” Drilon stressed.
Drilon said that the beneficiaries could use the additional cash grant to send their children to school or use for medical checkups -- some of the conditions that the beneficiaries must meet in order to become eligible for the program.
The Duterte administration has allotted P23.4-billion budget for the rice subsidy program next year. This is on top of the P49.4-billion budget for the CCT for 2017, he noted.
The funds are lodged under the P130-billion proposed budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development next year, he added.
“The huge amount of P23.4 billion can also be used to expand the CCT program to include the ‘near-poor’ families or those who are living a little above the poverty threshold line,” Drilon stressed.
Besides, Drilon said that the government is facing a “logistical nightmare” if it pushes through with its rice subsidy program.
“So that we can avoid the huge cost and logistical nightmare that a rice subsidy program might cause, let us use the funds to augment the outright cash that we give to the poor,” Drilon concluded.