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Friday, January 22, 2021

Gov’t should check SAP’s gross failure as COVID cases rise

Research group IBON said that the Duterte
government should correct the huge shortfall of the Social Amelioration Program
(SAP) especially amid a continuously increasing number of COVID-19 cases. About
9 million out of the target 18 million poor households received only one
tranche of emergency aid, or just Php53 per day over 106 days of COVID-19
lockdown. These 9 million families will no longer get the second tranche as the
government limits distribution to residents in enhanced community quarantine
(ECQ) and modified ECQ (MECQ) areas. Yet, the country reaches a record of
36,438 cases as of June 29.

According to the recently expired Bayanihan law, the Philippine government was supposed to provide
emergency subsidies to low-income families and vulnerable sectors whose jobs
and incomes were disrupted by the lockdown. Support amounting to
Php5,000-8,000, depending on regional minimum wage rates, was to be given to
some 18 million poor households for two months.

The first month-tranche came in the duration of three months,
making the already stingy aid even much delayed. The second month-tranche, on
the other hand, according to an inter-agency joint memorandum, will be
distributed now only to beneficiaries in the ECQ and MECQ areas. This reduces
the original 17.7 million target beneficiaries to just 8.6 million households
in the following areas: Central Luzon except Aurora, the National Capital
Region (NCR), Calabarzon, Benguet, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Cebu province, Bacolod
City, Davao City, Albay province, and Zamboanga City.

This leaves 9.1 million of the original target SAP beneficiaries
affected by the three-month lockdown to make do with the meager first tranche,
said IBON. This is even if economic activity cannot fully resume in now general
community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ areas.

Considering that Php98.3 billion has been distributed to 17.5
million households as of June 27, IBON computes that the first tranche averages
out to Php5,617 per family. Without the second tranche supposedly for the second
month of lockdown, the subsidy amounts to just Php53 per family or Php12 per
person per day for the past 106 days since the COVID-19 lockdown started.

Even those who will receive the second tranche will still end up
stretching a small amount over three months of lockdown, IBON said. Some
Php6.79 billion in second tranche aid has already been distributed to 1.3
million recipients, or an average of Php5,047 per family. Combining both
tranches, these 1.3 million families each got only a total of Php10,664. This
amounts to Php101 per family or Php23 per family member for each of the 106
lockdown days.

IBON also noted that 5.28 million low-income households even continue to wait for the first tranche of SAP. This figure includes the remaining 278,206 beneficiaries out of the target 17.7 million according to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) data as of June 27. The rest are the families declared by the DSWD in mid-May as also eligible to receive aid but have not received any. While some 500 wait-listed families in the Cordillera Administrative Region have received their first tranche, those in now GCQ and MGCQ areas may also no longer get the second tranche.

The country does not seem to be winning the war against COVID-19, but the government has remained indifferent to the impact of the pandemic on the millions of poor families, said IBON. The Duterte administration has continued penny-pinching even as people’s livelihoods and incomes are already irrecoverable and public health is at risk. People’s socioeconomic welfare along with an efficient health response are the urgent matters that the Duterte government should be focusing on instead of staying apathetic to the mounting health and economic crisis, IBON said.

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