Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Philippines gives P5-B more to poor

Manila Bulletin

The Arroyo government will increase the cash subsidies given to one million poor families to improve their health, nutrition, and education.

President Arroyo Monday authorized an increase of P5 billion to the P10 billion-Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program to cover more poor beneficiaries during a visit in Lanao del Norte.

The welfare project, patterned after Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, provides cash assistance to poor households on the condition their children go to school and take part in health and vaccination programs. So far, the government’s welfare program, patterned after Brazil’s Bolsa Familia, benefits 700,000 poor families or 4.5 million people across the country.

The President said the conditional cash transfer program will target the 20 poorest provinces across the country, apart from the poor families living in Metro Manila.

“Starting this July, 700,000 families have started to receive assistance,” the President said in a regional media interview in Sultan Naga Dimporo, Lanao del Norte where she distributed cash subsidies to some 5,000 families.

Asked how many more the government plans to target, the President: “I have just instructed Secretary Cabral that at the the end of the year, she should now target one million. We will extend the program of Pantawid Pamilya to one million of the country’s poorest families.”

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo explained that the government needs P5 billion to cover the 300,000 new poor families who will benefit from the welfare program.

Fajardo said the Department of Budget and Management was assigned to set aside the additional resources that will bring the total cost of the Pantawid Pamilya program to P15 billion this year.

In the same regional interview, the President also pushed anew a legislation institutionalizing the conditional cash transfer program in the country.

She noted that Senator Miriam Santiago and Deputy House Speaker Amelita Villarosa have already authored a draft bill on the program. The two lawmakers accompanied the President during her recent visit in Brazil where they received a briefing on the Bolsa Familia program, which has benefited 12 million poor families.

The President said she wanted the conditional cash transfer project issued under a executive order to be permanent, saying the program is only as good as her tenure.

“An executive order has the power of the law while you are a president until the next president repeals it. A law can only be repealed by Congress.”

Beneficiaries of 4P’s were chosen through household assessment done by the DSWD. Each family received a maximum of P1,400 (P500 for one parent; P900 for three dependents) for five years given in a quarterly basis.

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