P1B released to 4Ps in R-12, Marawi in 2011

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 January) – The national government has released a total of P1.075 billion in cash grants last year to beneficiaries of its continuing conditional cash transfer program in Region 12 and portions of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Bai Zorahayda Taha, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12 director, said Wednesday the funds were released directly to 148,660 “poorest of the poor” households in the area that were covered by the government’s flagship anti-poverty initiative Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

In Region 12, she said the program has so far served 145,421 households in 32 municipalities and two cities as part of the national government’s anti-poverty convergence strategy.

Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Cotabato, Kidapawan and Tacurong.

It also covers 10,719 households in Marawi City in Lanao del Sur, which is part of the ARMM, Taha noted.

Taha said they will continue with the program’s expansion in the area this year based on an earlier commitment made by President Benigno S. Aquino III.

“We’re currently targeting to enlist 96,695 more household-beneficiaries in 15 identified expansion areas,” she cited in their 2011 annual report.

Taha said the enlistment of new beneficiaries is presently ongoing in Tacurong City and and Isulan town in Sultan Kudarat; Koronadal City, Tupi, Tantangan, Tampakan, Surallah, Polomolok and Norala in South Cotabato; and, Kidapawan City, Kabacan, M’lang, Libungan, Makilala and Midsayap in North Cotabato.

Additional beneficiaries were also being enrolled in Alabel town in Sarangani and Palimbang in Sultan Kudarat, she said.

From last year year’s target of 2.34 million households, the national government has set the expansion of 4Ps to 3.04 million households this year as part the fifth phase of its implementation.

The national government earlier increased the program’s budget from P21.19 billion this year to P39.5 billion next year to cope with its planned expansion.

4Ps is a poverty reduction and social development strategy of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to “poorest of the poor” households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14 years.

The program provides beneficiaries cash grants of P500 a month for health and nutrition expenses and P300 a month per child for educational expenses. A household with three qualified children could get P1,400 monthly.

In his visit to the Philippines late last year, World Bank Group president Robert Zoellick backed proposals to expand the government’s food subsidy program for the lowest-income households, saying the country’s economic growth should also benefit the poor.

He described the 4Ps as a “prudent safety net” for poor families, especially in tough economic times.

The World Bank has supported the nationwide rollout of the 4Ps since its launching in 2008 as a primary poverty reduction initiative of the national government. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)