DSWD to enlist million poorest of the poor by Christmas

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/14 Dec) – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) targets to register the first one million beneficiaries of its controversial P21-billion conditional cash transfer program before the end of the year, Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Silliman said Tuesday.

Soliman said a total of 961,000 families have already been registered for the program as of December this year; but the department plans to reach out to 40,000 more, “hopefully by Christmas,” Soliman said in the Davao convergence roadshow which seeks to explain to the regions the poverty reduction programs that DSWD will be implementing next year.

She said that 40 percent of the first one million beneficiaries of the government’s CCT program, also called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), will largely come from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the Caraga region and Zamboanga peninsula, which have been identified as among the poorest regions in the country.

Under next year’s national budget, which is in the final deliberation in the bicameral sessions in Congress, some P34 billion has been earmarked for DSWD’s poverty reduction program, 90 percent of which will go directly to the poor, Soliman said, referring to the CCT.

The P21-billion CCT budget has been criticized by progressive partylist groups because it has taken the budget out of state universities and government hospitals catering to the critical needs of the poor.

Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan also said in an earlier forum here that the rechanneling of budget from state universities will increase the number of dropouts as state universities will start raising fees to survive. Hospitals catering to the poor, like the Flabella Hospital, where four women share one bed after child birth, will also suffer more because of scarcity of funds.

Ilagan said that although the CCT program was started during the time of former President Arroyo, the hefty increase of the budget from less than P500 million to P21 billion “even shocked” the former President.

Through the program, families identified as the poorest of the poor will receive some P1,400 per month, coursed through the automated teller machines of the Land Bank of the Philippines.

“It’s the first time for a very long time that a significant amount of money has been poured into this sector,” Soliman said during the Davao roadshow. “We are helping the poor to help themselves,” she added.

“If it is a dole out, I want to say that the people we are serving have been deprived of this services for centuries, the parents of these elementary school children have not finished their elementary years. If these children will finish school, we’re giving them greater chances in life that they will be able to participate in an inclusive economic growth,” Soliman said. “But if we don’t include them, these 4.6 million poorest of the poor will be left behind,” she pointed out.

She said the conditionalities of the contract will prompt the identified poorest of the poor households to send their children to school, avail of preventive health checkups and services, such as deworming, and for pregnant women in the identified households to avail of prenatal, chilbirth and postnatal care.

Soliman also said the program will help the country achieve some of the millennium development goal targets of reducing poverty.

“With the DOH (Department of Health) and DepEd (Department of Education), we think we can achieve a 100-percent coverage of the primary education program, reduce child mortality rate, and reduce poverty incidence in the country to 2015, down from the 32.9 percent in the 2006 level,” Soliman said.

She said that of the 9 million households identified in the national household targeting system, 4.6 million have been identified as the poorest, whose lives the government plans to uplift in the next five years, Soliman said. “After five years, the poorest of the poor will move out of their vulnerability and will be on their way to development,” Soliman said.

But critics said doling out money for nothing would not be helping the poor help themselves. “After they get the money, what?!” Ilagan said. “You’re not even teaching people how to fish.” (Germelina Lacorte / MindaNews)