MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay said he will not only continue the flagship poverty alleviation program of the Aquino administration, but he will even expand it to cover more senior citizens as well.
Binay made the statement on Saturday, November 21, as he denied reports that he would scrap the government’s Conditonal Cash Transfer program if elected as president.
“Ang plano ko nga palawakin pa ‘yan. Isasama po natin ‘yong healthcare, at ‘yong narinig ko na ‘yong mga senior citizen from 60 to 64 ay hindi kasama. Bakit naman kaya? After all, ang mga senior citizen start at 60. Ewan ko kung ano ang explanation kung bakit 65 lang ‘yon nagsisimula,” said Binay.
(My plan is to expand it. We will add healthcare, and I also heard that senior citizens from 64 to 65 years old aren’t included. I wonder why. After all, senior citizens start at 60. I don’t know why they started from 65.)
He reiterated that he will “not scrap a good project started by the previous administration, referring to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which was introduced by the Arroyo administration and continued by Aquino.
The Aquino administration turned 4Ps, also called the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, into its flagship poverty alleviation program.
Under 4Ps, a household beneficiary with 3 children can receive P1,400 ($30) a month or P15,000 ($331) a year. In exchange, they have to meet conditions set by the DSWD such as regular health checkups and better school attendance of children.
Include healthcare, senior citizens
However, Binay sees a limitation in 4Ps – it does not provide healthcare nor does it benefit senior citizens. He said he plans to give a regular and automatic allocation for the social protection program.
“‘Yung mga bagay-bagay na ‘yon ay dapat nating ituwid. At annually, maisasama na ‘yon sa gastusin ng ating pamahalaan (These should be corrected. Annually, they should be part of the annual expenditure of the government),” Binay added.
Administration tandem Manuel Roxas II and Camarines Sur Third District Representative Leni Robredo had also vowed to continue the program by institutionalizing it. However, it’s not clear whether they plan to expand its coverage if elected.
Binay and other critics had called out Roxas and Robredo for allegedly politicizing the anti-poverty program when they attended the Department of Social Welfare and Development event in Koronadal City to mark the achievements of the 4Ps program. This happened just two days after they formally entered their bids for the 2016 national polls.
Binay also took issue with the “recurring deficiencies” that the Commission on Audit identified in a recent report, including inaccuracies in the list of beneficiaries, distribution gridlocks, non-receipt or underpayments, non-compliance with requirements, and verification issues.
The program itself has also received its share of flak from other critics who tag it as a mere dole-out program. Critics also claim that some of the program’s beneficiaries are not really the poorest of the poor.
However, Social Welfate Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman clarified that her agency has already taken steps to address the issues, including the conduct of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NTHS-PR).
According to Soliman, the NTHS-PR results will serve as basis for the development and implementation of social protection programs of both the national government and members of civic society for “deserving beneficiaries.” – Rappler.com