COVID-19

May ayuda ba o wala? Duterte officials say yes, but details still murky

Aika Rey
May ayuda ba o wala? Duterte officials say yes, but details still murky

CASH AID. Residents brave the summer heat as they line up at the stretch of a sidewalk along Edsa corner Cubao, Quezon City to receive their emergency fund assistance or ayuda from the goverment on Friday, April 9, 2021.

Jire Carreon/Rappler

Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado says they are still waiting for a directive from President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the cash aid program

Government officials have been quick to assure those who will be hardest hit by the upcoming two-week lockdown in Metro Manila that they will get cash aid, but no specific details have been given in terms of the amount, coverage, and source of the financial assistance.

Starting August 6, most of Metro Manila’s 13 million population will have to stay home – the fourth lockdown since the pandemic began in 2020 – as only essential services would be allowed to keep a skeletal workforce.

Cash aid is among the main considerations every time the Philippine government imposes a hard lockdown.

On Friday, July 30, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that Malacañang expects that cash aid to be similar to the assistance provided in March – P1,000 per person or up to P4,000 per family.

But Roque could not say with certainty if there will be cash aid, the exact amount, and how many families will be covered.

“Ang hinihingi ko na lang po ay kumpirmasyon pero nakausap ko na si DBM (Department of Budget and Management) Secretary Wendel Avisado at sabi niya sa akin, ‘Hahanapin at hahanapin natin ‘yan.’ Dahil ang Presidente, hindi pumapayag mag-ECQ (enhanced community quarantine) ng walang ayuda sa mga mamamayan,” Roque said in a DZBB interview.

(I’m just waiting for confirmation but I already talked to DBM Secretary Wendel Avisado and he told me, “We will look for funds.” Because the President would not allow ECQ to be imposed without cash aid for Filipinos.)

May ayuda ba o wala? Duterte officials say yes, but details still murky

But Avisado told Rappler that the Office of the President (OP) has yet to give them a directive pertaining to cash aid.

Asked if there are funds to be tapped, Avisado said, “Once we receive the directive from OP, we will source it out from available funds, which we have.”

While there appears to be some level of assurance that there are funds, the budget chief did not answer questions on the amount of the available fund.

When Rappler asked where the DBM would source the new cash aid program, Avisado said that “savings” identified by agencies through Administrative Order 41 “could be one source.”

The DBM can also tap the disaster fund or the contingency fund under the 2021 budget. Asked about this, Avisado told Rappler that they will just inform OP “once they get the directive.”

As for the amount needed for the program, the budget chief said, “We still have to coordinate with NEDA and DSWD.”

Over at the NEDA Viber group, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua told reporters that he “understands” there would be cash aid to be provided in ECQ areas. “But better confirm with DOF or DBM,” Chua added.

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Chua noted that imposing a hard lockdown will push 177,000 people into poverty. Cash aid could also mitigate the impact of the lockdown, he said.

The government has a poor record in swiftly disbursing cash aid. It has barely a week to put things into motion and coordinate how the funds will be distributed.

Anti-insurgency funds over ayuda?

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Sunday, August 1, chided the government in its scramble to secure funds for the ayuda, compared to its release of over P16 billion pesos within just four months to the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to fight the communist insurgency.

“Nakakalungkot po na may pondo para sa anti-insurgency pero walang pondo para sa ayuda,” said Drilon in a statement. (It’s sad that there are funds for the anti-insurgency [campaign], but none for the cash aid.)

Drilon then called for the inclusion of funds for COVID-19 cash aid in the 2022 national budget. He also promised to oppose giving any budget for NTF-ELCAC in 2022, which he noted was an election year.

“We must provide for SAP, not for anti-insurgency. I would like to see the 2022 national budget to give priority to 4Ps, the social amelioration program or ayuda, the health and education sectors,” the senator said. – Rappler.com

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Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.