House OKs bill institutionalizing 4Ps on third, final reading

By Ben Rosario

The House of Representatives on Wednesday approved on third and final reading House Bill 7773 that seeks to institutionalize the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program as an anti-poverty tool of the country.

On a vote of 261 to 18, the Senate and the House of Representatives decide to extend martial law in Mindanao up to December 31, 2017 in a joint, special session at the Batasang Pambansa yesterday. Inset photo shows Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III (left) and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez presiding over the session that lasted more than seven hours. (Jansen Romero, Alvin Kasiban) House of the Representatives (Manila Bulletin File Photo)

With 196 affirmative votes and six negative votes, HB 7773 or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program Act was finally approved nearly a decade after former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo initiated the anti-poverty program.

HB 7773 consolidated at least 30 bills and one resolution that won strong bipartisan backing. Authors included Reps. Alfred Vargas (PDP-Laban, Quezon City); Bellaflor Angara Castillo (LDP, Aurora); Salvio Fortuno (NP, Camarines Sur); Winston Castelo (PDP-Laban, Quezon City); Mikee Romero (1-Pacman Partylist); Fredenil Castro (NUP, Capiz); Rozzano Rufino Biazon (PDP-Laban, Muntinlupa City); Gus Tambunting (PDP-Laban, Las Pinas City) and Arroyo.

Vargas, vice chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said the bill defines the poor as those households whose income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic Development Authority.

Under the bill, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is mandated to select qualified households on a nationwide basis using a standardized targeting system. The DSWD is also directed to revalidate qualification of beneficiaries every three years.

A lump sum conditional cash transfer of P2,2000 per month shall be granted by government to household-beneficiary for health and education expenses.

According to Vargas, the measure proposes to prioritize investments on human capital, provide resources, and improve delivery of services, particularly on education, health, and nutrition.

“With the goal of breaking the inter-generational poverty cycle, the program provides financial support to poor households so they can invest on their children’s education and health,” he explained.

On the other hand, Castelo stated that among the conditions set for beneficiaries include taking children up to five years old to receive regular preventive health check-ups and vaccination.

Deworming should be availed of for youths from one to 18 years old.

Castelo explained that beneficiaries will also have to make sure that children from five to 18 years old are enrolled in elementary, secondary classs at least 85 percent of the school period.

Further, pregnant women must avail of pre- and post-natal care while one responsible person in the family is required to attend family development sessions conducted by the DSWD at least once a month.

Vargas and Castelo lauded their colleagues for the solid support that the measure received during the plenary voting.