By Vanne Terrazola
The national government should give cash directly to families in the informal sector.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Wednesday that in the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act passed by Congress in a special session last week, the P5,000-to-P8,000 emergency subsidy for 18 million informal sector households should be given in cash.
Sotto emphasized this point as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) bared its plan to divide the emergency subsidy into cash and food assistance.
DSWD spokesperson Irene Dumlao said that, for instance, families in Metro Manila, where a P8,000-worth subsidy was set, will receive at least P3,000 cash, while the remaining amount will be given in the form of food packs, such as those earlier distributed by the agency in boxes.
The value of cash and food packages shall make up the emergency subsidy program under RA 11469, she said.
Sotto poinred out, however, that according to the Bayanihan act, the cash subsidy will be given over and above the food assistance to be given by DSWD.
“‘Yung goods, ang pagkakaintindi ko originally — nong pinagdedebatehan namin ‘yan, at doon sa meeting pa lang sa executive (branch) — [ay] over and above. ‘Yun ang thinking namin. Over and above sana doon sa LGUs, pero itong national government, sana, kung cash ang labanan, dapat, eh,” he said.
(What I understood, originally — when we were debating that, and discussing it in our meeting with the executive branch– was that the goods will be given over and above the cash grant. That was our thinking. That the cash grant was over and above the food assistance given by the LGUs, and the national government, hopefully, will give cash.)
“Kung ganon ang intindi ng executive branch lalo na ng DSWD, kailangan makausap namin sila agad. Sapagkat, mas gusto namin — kaya natin ginawa ‘yan eh, para ‘yong cash ibigay sa kanila, eh. Sila bumili [ng pagkain],” Sotto said.
(If the executive department or the DSWD understood it that way, then we have to talk to them immediately. Because we actually preferred — that’s why we crafted the law — so that we can give (the people) cash. So they’ll buy their own food.)
“Kung nasa kanila, mabu-budget nila, saka mabibili nila kung anong gusto nila doon sa lugar nila. ‘Yon ang thinking namin…ganon ang thinking ng Senado, ng Kongreso as a matter of fact, they agreed,” he added.
(If the money is given directly to the people, they’ll be able to budget it, and they can buy whatever they want with it in their respective areas. That was our thinking in the Senate, and the whole Congress as a matter of fact, because the House of Representatives agreed with our version.)
Sotto said that the distribution food packages will cause further delay in extending help to the affected families, since supplies, would have to be procured, prepared and packed. This would also be redundant since some LGUs are already handing out food subsidy to their regular beneficiaries, he said.
“Mas madaling i-distribute ‘yung cash (Cash can easily be distributed),” he said.
Sought for an update, Sotto said he has spoken to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea to clarify Congress’ intention on the implementation of the emergency subsidy program.
“I suggested to him to check on my original suggestion to subsidize through cash only and let the LGUs add (assistance) through food packs (and others)],” he told the Manila Bulletin.