Friday, October 15, 2010

A Repost From Philippine Star

Palace: P21-billion cash transfers to push through
By Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) Updated October 16, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (29) View comments

MANILA, Philippines - MalacaƱang is renewing its pitch for a P21-billion program to benefit the “poorest of the poor,” appealing to Congress to keep the funds intact.

“The conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration is timely, responsive and a substantial improvement of the existing program,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad told reporters on the sidelines of the House budget debates.

“Our CCT program is timely because it seeks to enable the Philippines to comply with its Millennium Development Goal commitments in 2015, where it is now lagging behind in two of eight indicators,” he said.

“It is responsive because it targets directly the poor households and addresses severe reversals in key social indicators such as universal elementary education and maternal health care,” he pointed out.

“Finally, it is an improvement because it is more comprehensive: Beyond CCT, the program comes with substantial investments in basic education, child immunization, and maternal health and public health services,” he added. The CCT program aims to give financial assistance of up to P1,400 a month to poor families provided they comply with certain conditions like seeing to it that their children go to school and they attend family development sessions.

It targets 2.3 million beneficiaries next year and up to four million by the end of President Aquino’s term in 2016.

“The CCT is one of the few effective programs we inherited from the past administration. It is not timely, relevant and responsible to expand the program but also to tie its implementation with meaningful investments in education and healthcare services,” he said.

It has come under criticism from an increasing number of House members, including former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who started the program two years ago.

This year, the dole-out fund has an appropriation of P10 billion.

Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla, one of the critics of the planned dole-outs, said the cash assistance would only promote mendicancy and would not really solve the problem of hunger and poverty.

The government should instead create jobs for the poor and the jobless and develop the countryside, where most of the poor live, he said.

Criticisms against the dole-outs have twice held up the approval of the proposed P34.3-billion 2011 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the agency that implements the CCT program.

However, the House was scheduled last night to approve the DSWD outlay, which represents a 123-percent increase from this year’s level of P15.4 billion.

“We have already spent two nights on this. That’s already enough. We will put this to a vote before we approve the P1.645-trillion 2011 appropriations program of the President,” Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II told reporters yesterday.

He said the President’s budget proposal would be passed “even if we have to work overtime.” Abad said that aside from the CCT program, the Aquino government has a “complete and comprehensive package of liberating indigent households from poverty.”

“The 2011 Reform Budget provides funding to significantly address resource gaps in basic education, and to provide maternal healthcare facilities and immunization services, especially in the countryside,” he said.

According to Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, the CCT program would have beneficiaries in all provinces except Batanes, home province of the Abads.

“In Batanes, none of the households passed our criteria for the poorest of the poor,” she told congressmen. – With Aurea Calica

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