poverty in the Philippines

Marcos taps agencies to help carry out DSWD project for street-dwellers

Michelle Abad

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Marcos taps agencies to help carry out DSWD project for street-dwellers

LeAnne Jazul

A new executive order taps the agriculture, trade, labor, health, budget, and education departments to help implement the DSWD's Pag-abot Project

MANILA, Philippines – President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has issued an executive order (EO) institutionalizing and enhancing the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Oplan Pag-abot Project, which seeks to assist individuals and families on the streets.

The EO, dated January 18, created an inter-agency committee to implement the program, with the DSWD and the Department of the Interior and Local Government secretaries leading as chair and vice chair, respectively. Other agencies tapped as members include the departments of agriculture, trade, labor, health, budget, and education.

Pag-abot, which translates to “reach,” was institutionalized as a platform for “enhanced and unified” service delivery for vulnerable and disadvantaged children, individuals, and families in street situations, according to Executive Order No. 52.

“The Pag-abot Program is hereby institutionalized as a platform for an enhanced and unified delivery of services to vulnerable and disadvantaged children, individuals, and families in street situations, through provision of social safety nets and protection against risks brought about by poverty,” said Marcos in issuing the EO.

According to program guidelines issued in June 2023, the intended beneficiaries include children in street situations – whether they are working or living there, or found there due to abandonment, neglect, or orphanhood – “unattached” adults on the streets, and homeless street families.

Forms of assistance include financial aid, transportation and relocation, transitory shelter, livelihood and employment training, psychosocial support, community capability building, capacity building for local governments, and community assistance.

The EO allows for other related forms of assistance, as long as they are “consistent with the mandates of concerned government agencies,” as well as relevant laws and rules.

In providing assistance under Pag-abot, following ocular visits, profiling of beneficiaries, and service delivery, the final step is monitoring and follow-up. Marcos assigned the inter-agency committee to develop a monitoring framework, including a digital monitoring system containing a database of individual, family, and community beneficiaries.

The DSWD is in charge of determining needs for additional manpower and funds for the program.

Citing the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a May 2023 BusinessMirror report said 12,615 Filipinos were considered homeless, as they lived on streets and public spaces, such as parks and sidewalks. Majority of the homeless were in Metro Manila.

But the number could be much grimmer, as the DSWD guidelines for the project include a note on how there are 4.5 million homeless Filipinos in the country, citing reports that lead back to the PSA.

Around 16.4% or 4.51 million Filipino families are below the poverty threshold of P13,797 per month, the PSA reported in December 2023. – Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.