By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Deputy House Speaker Rep. Loren Legarda sought on Thursday (March 19) the immediate release of the unspent P56.4 billion unconditional cash transfer (UCT) funds to financially assist those who cannot work following the government’s imposition of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
She called on the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to “release now” the remaining UCT funds “for the poor who need it most during this COVID-19 crisis.”
“The P56 billion is for the whole Philippines and should be released now. That is for 2018, 2019, 2020 unconditional cash transfer,” Legarda, former chairperson of the Senate committee on finance, said in a Twitter post.
“This is already legislated, appropriated, partly unused, while the poor are in need, so please use it now for those who don’t have income and need food!” she added.
She noted that the unspent UCT fund from the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA) was P1.7 billion, while in 2019 it was P18.708 billion. For 2020, she said the government allocated P36.48 billion for the UCT.
Legarda also called on Congress to immediately pass the proposed Food Subsidy Act, even as she asked the DSWD to “aggressively” provide food packs.
“These are doable. Calling on DBM, DSWD. Let’s give the cash to the poor within the next few days!” she said.
Legarda said the figures in the Emergency Food Subsidy Act can be adjusted based on the need in the National Capital Region (NCR), the mega Manila provinces, and other urban centers reeling from the quarantine.
She noted that there are an estimated 48,000 poor families in NCR or about 308,600 individuals.
“A DSWD food pack for a family of five costs P505. Let’s provide them this especially during the enhanced community quarantine where there’s no work for the daily wage earner,” Legarda said.
House committee on ways and means chairperson and Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda earlier proposed a cash transfer program for Luzon residents affected by the ECQ.
He said the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)-family beneficiaries in Luzon should be given a 13th-month 4Ps grant worth P6 billion.
Salceda also called for the full-year advance of UCT of P3,600 per family of 6.2 million UCT beneficiaries, mostly informal families.