By Genalyn Kabiling
Poor families who were left out in the first tranche of the emergency subsidy program may still have a chance to get relief and assistance from the government, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque has called for patience and understanding as the government plans to include an additional five million families in the financial aid program to cushion the impact of the coronavirus-related quarantine restrictions.
He said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) has recommended to President Duterte to raise the total number of beneficiaries of the subsidy program to 23 million low income families from the initial 18 million.
“Inaasahan natin na limang milyong karagdagang pamilya ang magkakaroon ng ayuda at sang-ayon din po iyan sa guidelines ng DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) (We expect an additional five million families will be given assistance based on the guidelines of the DSWD),” Roque said during a virtual press conference.
‘Yung mga hindi nakatanggap, masama ang loob, may pag-asa pa po dahil naintindihan naman ng Presidente natin na talagang napakadaming nawalan ng hanapbuhay noong tayo ay nagkaroon ng ECQ (enhanced community quarnatine). Kaunting tiyaga lang po, pasensya na po talaga, hindi po natin gustong mangyari ito (Those who were unable to receive, those who are hurt, there is still hope because the President understands that many lost their jobs when we implemented the ECQ. Please bear with us. Have a little patience. We did not intend this to happen),” he said.
Despite the planned increase in the number of beneficiaries, Roque said that he expects more people will still demand to be included in the financial aid program.
“Humihingi po ako ng inyong pag-intindi, bagama’t five million po iyan na additional na pamilya na mabibigyan ng ayuda sa first tranche, ang katunayan po ay marami pa rin ang magrereklamo na dapat sila mabigyan (I ask for your understand. Although there will be an additional five million families who will be given aid in the first tranche, the truth is many will complaint that they should also be given),” he said.
Asked how the additional beneficiaries will be identified, he said the DSWD is expected to release the guidelines on the distribution of the second tranche of the cash subsidy program.
He also assured the public that the government has ample funds to cover the additional beneficiaries.
“Aabangan po natin ang desisyon ng ating Presidente para sa (Let’s wait for the President’s decision on the) second tranche but I can assure you na iyong ayuda na ibibigay sa (the aid that will be given to) additional five million families is within the budget given to Congress for the SAP (social amelioration program),” he said.
Roque made it clear that there is no final decision yet if the cash subsidy will be limited to low income families living in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
He admitted though it is possible that the poor families in places under general community quarantine (GCQ may no longer receive financial aid since several businesses and services have been allowed to resume operations in these areas.
“Wala pa pong desisyon na pinal pero mukhang ganoon po tayo patungo kasi binuksan na naman po natin ang ekonomiya noong mga lugar na nasa ilalim ng GCQ at puwede ng mag-hanapbuhay iyong mga mamamayan natin sa GCQ areas (There is no final decision yet but it appears we might take that option because we have opened the economy in areas under GCQ and our countrymen can start working again in GCQ areas),” he said.
On the reported slow distribution of subsidy to beneficiaries, Roque conceded it was time to “go beyond finger pointing” but expects local government units to hasten the process.
“One consolation po eh is ang mga local government units naman talaga ay namigay din ng ayuda galing sa kanilang sariling mga budget, pero hindi po iyan sapat (One consolation is the local government units gave aid using their budget but that is not enough),” he said.
“The President is again appealing to all LGUs, it’s a matter of life or death po and that is how they should deal with this issue of distribution of the SAP,” he added.
Under the P200 billion program, the government seeks to give a subsidy ranging between P5,000 to P8,000 to 18 million low income families for the months of April and May. The aid program aims to mitigate the impact of the lockdown measures that shut down many companies and displaced thousands of workers.
Last Friday, Roque announced that four million low income households will be added to the list of the beneficiaries of the government’s emergency subsidy program. The next day, he revised the number to five million.