Gov’t spends P2.5B for conditional cash grants in Region 12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/05 March) — Nearly P2.5 billion has been poured into the government’s controversial conditional cash transfer program called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) since 2008 in Southwestern Mindanao, an official said Tuesday.

Zorahayda Taha, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Region 12 director said Tuesday the funds were directly released to 202,851 “poorest of the poor” households in the area that were so far covered by the program.

4Ps is being implemented by DSWD-12 in parts of Region 12 and in Marawi City in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao since 2008.

Region 12,which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Cotabato, Kidapawan and Tacurong.

“We are happy to report that children of these poor families are now enjoying better access to education and better health services because of the program,” Taha said in a statement.

She said the government remains committed to sustain the program’s implementation as part of its efforts to ensure that “no one gets left behind in terms achieving holistic and inclusive growth” for the country.

The official said the agency has been continually expanding the program’s coverage, which now includes families of “children in need of special protection” and other marginalized sectors.

In Region 12, Taha earlier said the program’s beneficiaries include families of members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

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.

Meantime, Gemma Rivera, DSWD-12 assistant regional director, welcomed the World Bank’s recent findings that the program is so far on track in terms of meeting its goals of “keeping children healthy and in school.”

Under World Bank’s report, “Philippines Conditional Cash Transfer Program, Impact Evaluation 2012,” it said that children of Pantawid Pamilya beneficiaries are enrolling and attending schools, with improved health due to regular visits to health stations, and pregnant mothers getting proper care.

Controversy had hounded the 4Ps program with the inclusion of bogus beneficiaries.

In May 2011, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said that 47,000 beneficiaries had been purged from the list because they don’t belong to the “poorest of the poor,” the intended beneficiaries of the program.

Some of the beneficiaries of 4Ps that should have not been included were reportedly teachers and barangay officials and their relatives, who even own appliances like television sets thus clearly not among the “poorest of the poor.”

The World Bank is partly funding the program reportedly with a loan of $405 million to the government approved in 2009. (Allen V. Estabillo with a report from Bong Sarmiento/MindaNews)