Senator Francisco “Chiz” Escudero, prodding Congress to allocate P500 million aid fund, urged concerned agencies to expand the Tulong Panghanap-buhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers (TUPAD) program, spearheaded by the Department of Labor (DOLE), to extend more assistance and employment to victims of natural calamities.
Taking the floor at the Senate plenary deliberation Wednesday on the 2024 budget of the DOLE, the veteran legislator further proposed to carve out some P500 million from the calamity fund of the President as a Quick Response Fund (QRF) for DOLE to use TUPAD program for the recovery of affected victims in calamity-hit areas.
“Your honor, may we suggest in the proper time that we carve out from the calamity fund of the President, an amount, as a QRF fund for the DOLE’s TUPAD to help areas affected by calamities to recover,” Escudero said.
Pursuing his proposal, the senator added: “May I suggest P500 million…I don’t think the President will complain nor object because the Labor Secretary, at the end of the day, is his alter-ego.”
Escudero explained he would like TUPAD to be expanded to cover calamity victims, similar to a local program he implemented while serving as governor of Sorsogon wherein affected constituents were employed until they recover from the effects of typhoons.
“The deal was for them to not to clean or repair their own house but clean and repair the house of their neighbor and they can do it among themselves. This enabled our affected barangays at that time in Sorsogon to recover from calamity with their heads held up high and without really depending on dole outs and asking for help without giving anything in return,” Escudero recalled.
He noted “at present, the TUPAD provides emergency employment for displaced workers, underemployed and seasonal workers, for a minimum period of 10 days, but not to exceed a maximum of 30 days, depending on the nature of work to be performed.”
Escudero added that in order to expand the program’s coverage, he recommend the following:
1) Amend the guidelines of TUPAD or include in special provisions that the program can be implemented for more than 90 days and it can include the same beneficiaries more than once in a calendar year if it is for the purpose of helping them recover from a calamity, a pandemic or a tragedy;
2) Expand the program to include wasted or severely wasted parents or siblings which will last for at least 180 days and not 90 days; and
3) Specify the amount to be earmarked as QRF, which DOLE can tap for its TUPAD program in calamity-hit areas.
For her part, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda, who sponsored DOLE’s budget for 2024, lauded Escudero for his “brilliant” suggestion and vowed to introduce a special provision in the General Appropriations Bill to make the TUPAD program sustainable.