Safety nets for poor get P153B in budget

THE government will allocate P152.8 billion next year for social protection of the poor and for those made vulnerable by economic shocks following the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, a ranking House officer said on Sunday.

Deputy Speaker Rolando G.  Andaya Jr. said the P88.1 billion will be allocated for 4Ps, or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, and P23.2 billion for the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens.

Andaya said P37.6 billion will be allotted for the unconditional cash transfer (UCT) and P3.9 billion for the Pantawid Pasada Program for  public-utility vehicles (PUV) drivers, which are both mitigating measures under the TRAIN law.

“The budget proposed for these programs will reach P152. 8 billion in 2019…as [the government] ramps up social protection for poor households, victims of calamities, homeless families and those made vulnerable by economic shocks,” he said in a statement.  “But if we will compute other ‘entitlement programs’ that will provide subsidy to certain sectors, which will not be coursed directly to them but which they will benefit from, the total funding could reach double that amount,” Andaya added.

The 4Ps grants a monthly stipend to an indigent family on the condition that the children regularly attend school and get regular health check-ups. Also covered are calamity victims, homeless families, indigenous peoples and those affected by economic shocks.

The UCT, on the other hand, is a monthly assistance—set to increase to P300 next year, from the present P200—to partially cover the prices of goods driven up by the  TRAIN.

The social pension program grants a P6,000 yearly aid to indigent 60 year olds and above who are not receiving Government Service Insurance System or Social Security system pension.

The Pantawid Pasada is a coping mechanism for PUV drivers whose operating costs have gone up due to oil price hikes.

Other expenditures

Meanwhile, Andaya said among the other social protection expenditures for 2019 is the P67.4 billion that the government will pay PhilHealth for the insurance coverage of poor households and seniors, and the P3.5 billion for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s feeding program for almost 1.9 million children.

Other subsidies are in the form of investments, Andaya said, “the biggest of which is in the development of the nation’s human capital—education.”

For basic education, there is a P32.1-billion outlay for the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Schools, “in which government ‘buys’ seats in private schools for students in areas where there is a shortage of public schools.”

Financing free public college will be covered by the P51-billion allocation for the implementation of the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education.

The government will also be picking the tab for irrigation fees waived by the Duterte-signed free irrigation law. Andaya said P2.6 billion is allocated for this in next year’s draft P3.757-trillion national budget. Another category in social protection spending provides safety nets for displaced individuals, Andaya said. Under this is the P3.3-billion TUPAD program of the Department of Labor and Employment for dismissed workers.

The lower chamber is expected to start its deliberations for the  proposed 2019 P3.757- trillion national budget on Tuesday. Under the 2019 national budget, Social Services accounts for 36.7 percent of the entire budget, reaching P1.377 trillion. This is followed by Economic Services (28.4 percent, P1.068 trillion), General Public Services (18.9 percent, P709.1 billion), Debt Burden (11.0 percent, P414.1 billion) and Defense (5.0 percent, P188.2 billion).

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Jovee Marie Dela Cruz is working as a reporter in the country's leading business newspaper the BusinessMirror since 2013. Ms. Dela Cruz, who is in the media industry for 8 years, is currently covering the House of Representatives. She graduated from Universidad De Manila with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in 2008. At present, Ms. Dela Cruz is finishing up her master's degree in communication at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP).

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