Hontiveros prods DSWD to release cash aid to 1.23 million beneficiaries under SAP

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should not forget to release cash aid to the 1.26 million qualified households in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon who have yet to receive any subsidy under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP).

Sen. Risa Hontiveros (Senate of the Philippines / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros said that amid the record-high unemployment rate in the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she finds it unacceptable that more than a million of qualified families have yet to receive cash assistance from the government even after two rounds of strict lockdowns.

“If government cannot yet commit to a new, third tranche of SAP releases, at the very least, we should see to it that all qualified families get to receive the cash aid allocated to them under the first and second tranches," Hontiveros said.

The senator said the release of the pending SAP funds is necessary to minimize the number of families affected by the record-high 45.5 percent unemployment rate in the country recorded last July.

She said there are now around 27.3 million Filipinos who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and the cash assistance program would greatly help these beneficiaries cope with the pandemic.

The DSWD had earlier announced it is nearing the completion of payouts for the second tranche of SAP, since it has already released cash aid worth P74.2-billion to at least 12.28 million beneficiary families.

But Hontiveros said the state should not “close the books on SAP without first ensuring that all families qualified for SAP have actually received cash aid to help buy food, medicine, and other basic needs.”

She pointed out there are still 1.26 million families in the National Capital Region (NCR), Region III, and Region IV-A that have yet to receive SAP assistance since March even though they are qualified beneficiaries of the program.

“Let's ensure that the funds allocated to help these families will actually end up with them, as intended," she added.

She noted that Malacanang's last report to Congress on the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act indicated that SAP funds were distributed only to 54 percent, 66 percent and 64 percent of NCR households, Region III households, and Region IV-A households, respectively.

This means that 668,381 households in NCR, 232,831 households in Region 3, and 360,683 households in Region IV-A were supposed to receive social amelioration funds but did not do so.

The DSWD has recently said that it had cut down the list of beneficiary families to 14.1 million for the second tranche of SAP.

"We acknowledge the admission of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez II that the government could not allocate new funds to help poor families during the recent two-week lockdown. However, the government is not completely without options,” Hontiveros said.

The lawmaker said she believes that funds for the SAP program are ready for distribution to the 1.26 million families.

“Sana ihatid natin sa ating mga kababayan ang tulong na matagal na nilang hinihingi, (I just hope that our people are ready to receive help from the government which they have clamored for)," she said.