MANILA, Philippines – Newly appointed Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian said he is prepared for the role because of his extensive experience in local government.
“After nine years in Valenzuela, I’m a manager and administrator, I’m ramming my way through the bureaucracy, speeding things up,” he said in a Rappler Talk interview on Saturday, February 11.
He said that he doesn’t need to be a social worker in order to run the department since he can tap the existing expertise of social workers within the bureaucracy.
As Valenzuela’s chief executive, he was known for his quick response to local emergencies and being a hands-on mayor during the pandemic.
Gatchalian was appointed DSWD secretary on January 31.
“I’ve always said to myself to work for my country on a larger scale is not afforded to everyone,” Gatchalian said.
“I rose from the ranks of the LGU [Local Government Unit], all the mayors and all congressmen out there have their epiphany moments,” he said. “Sabihin mo pag ako ang nandoon, aayusin ko ito (You will say when I’m there, I will fix this). Given a chance, this is what I will do,” Gatchalian said.
Digital food stamp program
This program is still being conceptualized by the DSWD, and is one of the ideas Gatchalian is pushing. It involves the use of food stamps to fight hunger as food costs soar due to high inflation.
On the 72nd anniversary of the DSWD on Tuesday, January 31, prior to Gatchalian’s appointment, Marcos urged the department to “calibrate” cash aid programs, and give financial aid to poor families who are not necessarily among the poorest of the poor, to help families cope with rising food costs.
“I wanted to propose digital food stamps. We talk to the grocers, negotiate economies of scale with them, and bring food cards,” the former Valenzuela City mayor said in a Rappler Talk interview on Saturday, February 11.
Inflation soared to 8.7% in January, up from 8.1% in December, impacting the cost of basic goods, including the prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages, which inched up to 10.7% from 10.2%.
Gatchalian said that he would prioritize addressing those who are food poor first, among the different poverty segments.
According to a 2020 study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), at least 1.5 million Filipinos slid back to poverty due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s a staggering number. Walang Pilipino dapat natutulog sa gabi na gutom siya (No Filipino should go to bed hungry),” Gatchalian said.
The DSWD is working with a budget of P196 billion to manage government programs related to poverty, social welfare, hunger, and provide aid for the poor during disasters and other emergencies.
Aside from its own programs, the department also augments and supports anti-poverty, hunger and disaster relief efforts of the local government and other agencies.
Gatchalian also mentioned the need to clean up “Listahanan,” or the list of eligible 4Ps beneficiaries, to make sure those who are qualified for the conditional cash transfers (CCT) will receive them. 4Ps or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a poverty reduction strategy seeking to improve the health, nutrition and education of children aged 0-14.
In his first week as secretary, Gatchalian toured different care facilities of the DSWD around Metro Manila, and was hands-on in aid distribution in Siargao in northeastern Mindanao last February 8.
When asked how he should be measured in his performance as DSWD chief, Gatchalian said it should be based on his priorities for the agency.
So far, he’s told media that he would focus on improving its disaster preparedness programs, and reducing the number of requirements and processes in receiving social welfare.
“Here’s what I promise you, when every program has been canned properly, and the financing has already been identified. I, myself, will do the roadshow,” Gatchalian said. – Rappler.com
There are no comments yet. Add your comment to start the conversation.