By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senator Pia Cayetano on Saturday joined her colleagues in calling on the government to fast-track the distribution of emergency subsidies to indigent families displaced by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
In her comments to President Duterte’s second report to Congress on the rollout of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, Cayetano said senators agreed to pass the law primarily for the emergency subsidy program.
The law states that 18 million low-income households shall receive a cash subsidy worth P5,000 to P8,000 for two months, the amount depending on the existing minimum wage rate in their respective regions.
Lawmakers were told the program for the informal sector families will require about P200 billion in total.
“We need to fast-track the implementation of the P200[-billion] emergency subsidy program to support around 18 [million] poor Filipino families during the [ECQ]. When we deliberated on the Bayanihan to Heal as One law, we all agreed that this program should be given utmost priority,” said Cayetano, who sponsored the Bayanihan Act in the Senate, and is a member of the joint congressional oversight panel monitoring the implementation of the law.
She asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the implementer of the emergency subsidy program, to provide “a more detailed report” on the cash grant. She specifically expected the number of beneficiaries, areas covered, and amount spent.
“By doing this, [the] government can identify those who have not received assistance and determine proper fund allocation,” she said.
Aside from the emergency subsidy program, she said the DSWD, Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Agriculture (DA), and other agencies should likewise expedite their social amelioration programs and “provide much needed assistance to more Filipino families and sectors.”
She also said that the programs of national agencies “should be properly coordinated with the LGUs (local government units) to ensure that the efforts of the local and national government are aligned.”
Cayetano said she and Senate President Vicente Sotto III agreed that there were “misunderstandings” over the target beneficiaries of the financial assistance.
To address this, she said infographics should have consistently emphasized that the recipients “must be poor families and those from the informal sector who lost their income” due to the imposition of the quarantine.
Cayetano said with the extension of the ECQ in Luzon until April 30, the government should also review its guidelines to ensure the free movement of the supply chain, particularly for essential commodities.
She said she is still hearing reports of the restricted movement of products in the Cordillera region and some other LGUs.
She echoed the appeal for closer closer coordination among LGUs, DA, and the Department of Interior and Local Government to ensure the flow of agricultural products.
“The opening of industries considered essential to the supply chain should be considered, provided that these companies comply with safety measures,” she said.
“There should also be guidelines for online- and delivery-based businesses since this is a safer option. We also want to know government’s plan to resolve delays in the release of container shipments in our ports, especially products that are sensitive to heat or have a short shelf life,” she added.