Alex Eala

All Pasig families to receive cash aid but Vico Sotto asks the well-off to waive it

JC Gotinga
There’s not enough time or data on hand to identify who are actually needy, so all the city’s residents not on the DSWD emergency subsidy list will receive P8,000, says the Pasig mayor

VICO SOTTO. Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto during a Rappler Talk interview in October 2019. Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – To make sure every Pasig resident gets some financial help to tide them over the coronavirus lockdown, the city government is including all families – rich or poor – in its supplemental aid program to the national government’s emergency subsidy.

However, Pasig Mayor Vico Sotto is asking residents who are well-off to waive their share so it can be given to a family who needs it more, he told DZMM radio on Wednesday morning, April 15.

“Hindi na po tayo mamimili. Ina-assume po natin na kung tatanggapin nila ‘yung tulong ay nangangailangan po sila,” he said. (We won’t pick and choose anymore. We assume that if they accept the aid, they need it.)

“So i-open natin sa lahat. Hinihikayat na lang po natin ‘yung mga may-kaya o okay pa naman na huwag na lang nilang tanggapin ‘yung tulong. Or tanggapin nila, tapos ibigay nila sa mas nangangailangan,” he added. (So we’ll open it to everybody. We just urge the well-off or those still doing okay not to accept the aid. Or accept it, then give it to those who need it more.)

Sotto announced on Sunday, April 12, that the city government will cover more than 100,000 poor families who were cut from the list of potential beneficiaries of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) emergency subsidy.

The DSWD approved only about 93,000 Pasigueño families for its aid package of P8,000 for two months, for a total of P16,000 per family.

Sotto said the Pasig government will be canceling some non-urgent projects and take money out of its trust fund to give the excluded families a one-time handout of P8,000. The city is shelling out a total of roughly P1 billion from its own funds for this effort.

The efforts are meant to prevent social unrest, and to keep poor residents from starving during the lockdown, when many casual workers are cut from their income sources, Sotto added.

Because it would be too difficult and cumbersome to distinguish the needy from those who are not, the mayor said the city government decided to just include all Pasig residents – and they don’t have to be registered voters either.

“Kasi alam po natin, kahit middle class, sabihin nating may-kaya, pero nawalan na ng trabaho dahil sa quarantine. So mahirap po, wala tayong datos na eksakto kung sino talaga ‘yung nangangailangan na to the last person na alam natin ‘yung bilang,” he said in the radio interview.

(Because we know, even the middle class, let’s say they’re well-off, but they’ve already lost their jobs because of the quarantine. So it’s difficult, we don’t have the exact data on who is really needy with numbers down to the last person.)

The city government is ready to start distributing the cash aid to the first 93,000 families, but they are just waiting for the final list from the DSWD, Sotto said.

That first wave will take about a week to finish, Sotto said, so the distribution of the supplemental aid to the rest of Pasig’s families will begin after that, and it would take about a week or two to complete.

Other measures

Sotto said he got the idea of giving help to everyone and then just asking the affluent to decline it from Pasig’s earlier aid distribution efforts.

The city has already handed out about 400,000 grocery bags to its poorer communities, and it is about to give out a second wave of this food aid.

“Nagpapasalamat din po ako sa mga iba – let’s say, upper middle class hanggang upper class na mga pamilya – mayroon pong iba, tinatanggihan po talaga nila ‘yung tulong. Sinasabi nila, ‘bigay ‘nyo na lang sa mas nangangailangan,’” he said, adding that he’s hoping for the same attitude from residents this time.

(I thank those who – let’s say in the upper middle class or upper class – who really declined the aid they were being given. They say, “just give it to those who need it more.”)

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Meanwhile, as the emergency subsidy takes time to be distributed, the city government started giving out food coupons to its public school students. Sotto earlier said it is to ensure Pasig’s learners are not malnourished or stunted during the lockdown, when their parents might be unable to put food on the table.

Each public school student is entitled to a total of P400 worth of coupons that their families can use to buy food from the Pasig Mega Market, the Mobile Palengke roving stores, and community markets all over the city.

Pasig City, along with the rest of Luzon island, will remain on lockdown until April 30, an effort to quell the coronavirus pandemic. – Rappler.com

JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.