DSWD, DICT launch ‘ReliefAgad’ app for electronic cash aid distribution

The Departments of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Information and Communications Technology (DICT) launched a mobile app on Thursday, May 14, to facilitate automated cash aid distributions for the emergency subsidy program (ESP) which aids poor families affected by the coronavirus lockdown.

The app, called “ReliefAgad,” was developed due to challenges in the implementation of the first tranche of payouts for April.

The DSWD said these challenges included a lack of beneficiary data, the laborious process of collecting and encoding beneficiary information, and delays caused by manual cash distribution.

The department claims the app will lead to faster cash relief.

Beneficiaries would be able to register for the ESP by digitally inputting the same information they would put on a physical social amelioration card (SAC) form. Then they can choose among GCash, PayMaya, or cash (to be distributed by local officials) as their preferred method of payment.

According to the website, ReliefAgad can only be used by families who have already received an SAC, since the app requires the beneficiary to scan the barcode on the form. The app can be accessed through mobile via www.reliefagad.ph.

DSWD first announced it was working with the DICT to develop an app on April 28.

Is it safe? DSWD director for information and communication technology management service Andrew Ambubuyog said the app has been vetted by developers in the DICT. 

"Walang data na naiiwan sa mobile phone. At the same time, ang server ay dumaan sa mga testing at na-certify naman siya ng DICT. Kami ay sumusunod sa alituntunin ng Data Privacy Act. Lahat ng pamamaraan na maprotektahan ang sensitive personal information ng ating mga kababayan, kami ay sumaalaang alang," said Ambubuyog.

(No data will be saved on the mobile phone. At the same time, the server underwent testing and it has been certified by the DICT. We follow the provisions of the Data Privacy Act. We follow all the ways we can protect sensitive personal information of our countrymen.)

What if the beneficiaries don't have smartphones? DICT assistant secretary Manny Caintic said they had a "fallback" system, where beneficiaries would still write their data manually and the local officials would then encode it into the system. Caintic said they would hold trainings for officials for cases like these.

Aside from ReliefAgad, DSWD and the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) also partnered with GCash for payouts of public utility vehicle (PUV) and transport network vehicle services (TNVS) drivers in Metro Manila.

“The partnership aims to facilitate a quicker and safer approach of cash disbursement since the payout scheme promotes cashless and contactless transactions compliant to the health and safety protocols imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID),” the DSWD said in a press release.

Drivers may withdraw their subsidies via GCash from any automated teller machine (ATM) nationwide.

As of Wednesday, May 13, the government has released P94.3 billion to 16.7 million poor families. (TRACKER: DSWD assistance during coronavirus crisis)

The ESP has two tranches – the first batch of payouts for the month of April, and the second for May. As of Wednesday, 1,107 out of 1,634 local governments have completed payouts for April.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the addition of 5 million poor families to receive cash aid for the first tranche. For the second tranche of the ESP, or the payouts for the month of May, only families in areas under enhanced community quarantine would receive cash aid. (READ: DSWD vows faster distribution of coronavirus cash ais this May)

The DSWD is still waiting for the Office of the President to release its written directive with guidelines on distributing the second tranche.

Problems in the ESP have surfaced throughout its implementation. Local officials struggle to divide the limited SACs among all the families in need. Poor families also deal with prolonged waiting for subsidies which may not even come, since their local governments would still decide if they are qualified. People have also crowded in hot multifunction halls to queue in line for their subsidies.

As of Thursday, the Department of Interior and Local Government has issued show cause orders to 43 mayors nationwide due to slow distribution of payouts. – Rappler.com

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.

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