By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Albay 2nd district Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has proposed that all Filipinos, except those in the top 10 percent of the population or the rich, be given P1,000 emergency assistance during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
The chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means noted that two weeks ago, he requested President Duterte to consider the Universal Basic Income (UBI) approach in distributing the emergency subsidy and cover the 90 percent of the country’s population.
“Essentially, you distribute 1,000 to 2,000 pesos per head. Bale ang eligibility lang po, basta Pilipino ka at hindi ka mayaman, makakatanggap ka ng tulong (The eligibility will be you are a Filipino and you are not rich, you can receive the assistance),” he said.
Based on the study of welfare systems in different countries and based on the COVID-subsidy model in the United States, he described the UBI as the “most straightforward and simple” approach as there will be “no duplications and no confusion” as far as the eligibility is concerned.
“Mas malawak po ang kayang maabot ng Universal Basic Income (UBI) approach, including the middle class (The UBI will cover wider scope, including the middle class) ,” Salceda said.
It will do away much of the convoluted eligibilities and make for faster distribution, he explained.
Salceda first recommended the UBI approach in a letter to the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on March 19.
He said the middle-income households deserve to be financially assisted during the ECQ, as they contributed some P44.4 billion in taxes, of which P29.4 billion were personal income taxes.
The House leader expressed hope that his proposal would be considered, citing that President Duterte “has always had the middle class’s welfare and their contribution to economic growth in mind.”
Salceda noted that the average lower-middle to middle income family received between 9,500 and 27,000 pesos in additional take home pay every year due to Republic Act No. 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, which was signed by President Duterte in 2018.
“Clearly, the President takes the middle class into consideration in his economic policies. Kaya lang, siyempre po, uunahin muna talaga ang mahihirap. From the perspective of welfare po, sila talaga ang pinakaunang tutulungan (Though, he has to prioritize the poor. From the perspective of welfare, they are the first ones who should be assisted),” Salceda said.
“Pero, may paraan naman po para may makarating na tulong sa middle class (But, there is a way for the assistance to reach the middle class) .” Salceda said.
In a letter to President Duterte dated March 25, he said it “may be cheaper” to cover 90 percent of the population, which would require P198.2 billion.
He said to cover 80 percent of the population, it would require P176.2 billion.
“Basic income would be easier to target (i.e., if you are wealthier than 80 percent of Filipinos, you will not receive it. Otherwise, you are entitled). It would entail less administrative costs as it would not require the kind of data mining required of identifying beneficiaries from existing but disjointed lists,” Salceda said in his letter.
“A basic income approach would also be easy to distribute (in some of the poorest barangays in the country, all citizens would qualify). An open application system would be much simpler. As an entitlement earned by simple virtue of citizenship and income, it would be depoliticized. It also does away with overlaps where households qualify under two or more bases for entitlement,” he added.
Salceda said the UBI approach “can be explored in the next iterations of subsidy.”
“The implementing agencies are learning about the difficulties of a multi-modal system on the ground. Yung basic income po, madali kasi lahat pasok puwera patay, puwera mayaman (The basic income is easier because it can cover all, except dead and rich),” he said.