By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Some 18 million Filipinos families are assured of receiving P5,000 to P8,000 worth of assistance from the government for two months under the Senate bill granting President Duterte the “necessary” powers to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senators did not object to the inclusion of the provision specifying the Emergency Subsidy Program for low-income, ‘no work, no pay’ households that are affected by the imposition of the enhanced community quarantine in Luzon and other areas of the country affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
It was not specified in Senate Bill (SB) No. 1418, its sponsor, Sen. Pia Cayetano, said it was the primary objective of the measure.
During the interpellations on Monday night, Sen. Grace Poe asked Cayetano to guarantee the grant of the subsidy to poor families.
Cayetano was open to Poe’s amendment, and included it in changes she later proposed for the bill, which is the substitute bill to SB 1413 filed earlier.
Under the program, the 18 million low-income families shall receive from either the national or local government assistance worth P5,000 to P8,000, in cash or in kind, for two months. The subsidy shall depend on the prevailing daily wage rate in their respective regions, to help them avail of basic food, medicine, and other necessities during the quarantine period.
Among the 18 million families are the 4.4-million household beneficiaries of the government’s 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) or conditional cash transfer program.
Cayetano earlier said the emergency subsidy would be added to the average P2,150 they receive per month.
“So we will just top up their subsidies to reach the proposed P5,000 to P8,000 depending on their region,” she said.
The balance of 13.5 million non-CCT households will get P5,000 to P8,000 in total also from various national and local government programs, she said.
Cayetano said the Emergency Subsidy Program will require a total of P97.4 billion per month, or about P200 billion for two months.
She said the government has enough funds to afford the subsidy for the poor families displaced by COVID-19.
The Senate aims to pass SB 1418, also known as the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” bill, in its special session Monday night.
If passed into law, the measure would grant President Duterte the authority to realign government funds and to implement policies to minimize the spread of COVID-19.