By Vanne Terrazola
Senator Joel Villanueva lamented on Tuesday the delay in the distribution of the P5,000 to P8,000 financial assistance to poor households three weeks after the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act took effect.
“At the onset, unacceptable talaga na (it’s really unacceptable that) until now cash aid is still in limbo,” Villanueva said in a text message, when asked for comment on the implementation of the emergency subsidy program for 18 million low-income households affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) imposed to counter the spread of the coronavirus disease or COVID-19.
In his third weekly report to Congress submitted Monday, April 13, President Duterte said the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of Finance are still preparing a “comprehensive list” of households per municipality to distinguish members of the informal sector and those in the formal sector.
He mentioned this in his March 30 report as a part of his plans to implement the P200-billion subsidy program.
Of the amount, Duterte said that more than P16.3 billion has so far been given to 3.7 million, or 84.58 percent, of the total 4.4 million beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as emergency subsidy.
As of April 9, 40,418 non-4Ps beneficiaries from the public utility vehicle sector have also been given cash grants amounting to more then P323 million.
Duterte said the DSWD is targeting a total of 17,956,093 families classified as “informal and poor/near poor” for the emergency subsidy program.
Villanueva, however, stressed the urgency for the provision of the cash assistance.
“Urgency is the name of the game. Right now we should prioritize area targeting for assistance distribution instead of household/individual targeting,” he posted on Twitter.
“Let’s give all of them assistance, now. Instead of wasting time generating lists. This is inefficient. People are hungry,” he wrote.
Villanueva thanked the executive department for considering his proposal to grant workers in micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSME) sector wage subsidies amid the quarantine.
“We express our gratitude to our government for considering our proposal to provide a wage subsidy for workers in the MSME sector. The subsidy will help our workers in the sector to provide for their families while the quarantine is ongoing,” the chair of the Senate Labor Committee said.
“Securing the commitment of MSME employers to retain the employment of their workers to be eligible for the subsidy also eases the concern of our people on their job status once the quarantine is lifted. With this condition, we believe this will help smoothen our transition to restarting our economy, and arrest the decline in employment in the country,” he added.
Finance Undersecretary Karl Chua on Monday disclosed that the government will also be giving P51 billion in subsidies to middle-income workers in small businesses. Some 3.4 million workers are expected to benefit from the program.
Villanueva, however, maintained that data from the Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that 5.7 million workers were employed in MSMEs nationwide.
He said industries severely affected by the community quarantine enforced in Luzon and other local governments are in the wholesale and retail trade, and food and accommodation sectors which comprise at least 50 percent of the employment generated by MSMEs, according to the PSA.
He also reiterated his appeal for the provision of credit assistance to MSMEs, even before the community quarantine is lifted, to help maintain and boost their operations.