GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/28 August) – The national government has enlisted in the last seven months around 55,000 more poor households in Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region as beneficiaries of its conditional cash transfer program.
Gemma Rivera, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12 director, said in a statement that they have so far served a total of 198,000 “poorest of the poor” households in the region that were covered by the government’s flagship anti-poverty initiative Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.
The program, which forms part of the government’s anti-poverty convergence strategy, is being implemented in 32 municipalities and two cities in the region.
Region 12 covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani, North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Cotabato, Kidapawan and Tacurong.
Rivera, who is also the 4Ps deputy program manager for Region 12, said the beneficiaries included families of active members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in the area.
The government is presently engaged in peace negotiations with the MILF and is hoping to sign a final peace agreement with the rebel group within this year.
“We have no borders. We don’t care if they (beneficiaries) have relatives in any rebel organization. What we are concerned with is the plight of their children,” Rivera said.
Bai Zorahayda Taha, DSWD Region 12 director, said the program’s expansion is currently ongoing based on an earlier commitment made by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III.
She said they’re targeting to enlist a total of 96,695 additional household-beneficiaries this year in 15 identified expansion areas in the region.
In January, the agency initially validated an additional 55,912 households in the region as beneficiaries of the program.
The additional beneficiaries comprised 24,268 households in North Cotabato, 22,415 in South Cotabato and 5,271 in Sultan Kudarat.
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.
Taha reiterated that the 4Ps is not a dole-out initiative as claimed by its critics and that the assistance was only released to beneficiaries after complying with the program’s requirements.
“There are pre-conditions that beneficiaries must accomplish in order to remain qualified for the grants, like keeping their kids in school and making regular visits to health centers,” she stressed.
Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman disclosed last week that the program has already served around three-million households in the country.
From last year year’s target of 2.34 million households, the national government had set the expansion of 4Ps to 3.04 million households this year as part the fifth phase of its implementation.
The national government increased the program’s budget from P21.19 billion this year to P39.5 billion next year to cope with the 4Ps expansion. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)