Roque says gov’t may give ECQ aid under P2,000 by mid-April; Mayors prefer to give aid in kind

The government may provide less than P2,000 in emergency subsidy to Filipinos affected by the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Greater Manila Area, according to a Palace official.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the financial aid to help low-income Filipinos cope with the ECQ this week will be lower compared to the subsidy given during the lockdown last year. 

"I would estimate mga ganiyan po iyan ‘no, baka it may even be smaller (I would estimate around that amount, or it may even be smaller)," he said over ANC’s Headstart Monday, when asked if aid will be below P2,000 or a maximum of P2,000.

The aid distribution could be implemented starting mid-April, Roque said in a later televised press briefing. He said the date was still tentative based on the information he heard from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.

While the government is prepared to give cash subsidy, Roque admitted that mayors have declared preference to give assistance "in kind" to the people affected by the lockdown during a meeting last Saturday.

"They prefer to give in kind kasi iyong mga binigay na ayuda, napakarami po diyan ay napunta sa sugal, napunta sa bisyo, kaya mas gusto nila iyong mga nakakain na ng kanilang mga constituents (They prefer to give in kind because when the aid was given last time, many went to gambling, vice so they prefer to give food to their constituents)," he said.

The government placed Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Lagua, and Rizal under strict lockdown from March 29 to April 4 to break the rising COVID-19 transmission and prevent hospitals from getting overwhelmed with cases. The restrictions included stay-at-home rule except for essential needs, a ban on mass gatherings, and reduced capacity of public transportation and other industries. hospitals, supermarkets, drug stores, utility services are allowed to stay open this week.

In a later televised press briefing, Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said around 22.9 million beneficiaries could be given emergency assistance during the ECQ period.  Around P23 billion in unutilized funds could be tapped for the assistance program.

"Based on the data provided to us by NEDA, the ones that are going to benefit from this financial assistance would be about 22.9 million targeted beneficiaries, so we are still within the projected required amount to be disbursed for this purpose," he said.

Details of the aid program will be divulged either by President Duterte or Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, according to the budget chief.

When ECQ was declared last year, the government spent billions of pesos for emergency subsidy ranging between P5,000 and P8,000 to low-income households for the months of April and May. A second social amelioration package was implemented for Filipinos left out from the first aid.