The announcement that concerned government agencies are ready to implement subsidies to the poor as part of the safety net features of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) could not have come at a more opportune time.
With inflation rising and the poor reeling from increasing prices of fuel and basic commodities, there are mounting calls for the suspension of the implementation of the TRAIN law.
It is but proper that the concerned government agencies deliver as soon as possible the safety nets for the poor that are provided for under TRAIN.
However, the chairman of the House committee on ways and means, Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua learned to his dismay last month that issuance of the implementing rules and regulations for the roll out of the social protection programs under the law has been delayed, for one reason or another.
To the credit of the House leadership, where TRAIN originated, the chamber has consistently called the attention of the Department of Finance and other concerned government agencies through Cua to finish the needed IRRs as soon as possible.
Now, the DSWD said it is ready to provide P2,400 – the full amount that each beneficiary can receive for 2018 – to eight million families who were targeted for the unconditional cash transfer (UCT) program under TRAIN, which included 3 million senior citizens.
Each of the poor families would receive P200 per month, or an expenditure for the department of P19.2 billion for this year alone.
Likewise, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) would roll out next month the program on fuel subsidies to public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers under the Pantawid Pasada program, allocating at least t P977 million for the purpose.
What remains to be implemented among the TRAIN safety nets is the issuance of “social benefits card to provide the unemployed, minimum wage earners and the poorest 50 percent of the population with discounts on transportation and rice, and free skills training.”
On the other hand, the one bright spot is the DSWD’s release early this year of the grants for over four million families under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. The agency is targeting August as the release date of the payout for another 2.6 million beneficiaries listed under the government’s national household targeting system for poverty reduction or Listahanan.
The spike in the prices of basic commodities was triggered by the confluence of high oil prices in the world market and weakening peso.
It’s fortunate that world prices of the benchmark Brent crude seemed to be in the downtrend from the two-year high of $80 in mid-May to the current price of around $65 per barrel.
However, the expected additional interest rate increase that may be implemented by the US Federal Reserve would likely drive down further the value of the Philippine Peso that has already sunk to its lowest level of P53 to a dollar after the Fed raised interest rates. If that happens, the already weak purchasing power of the poor is in danger of being further eroded.
It is thus critical for the concerned government agencies to implement as soon as possible the programs to help the poor under the TRAIN, which is also necessary to implement the development programs of the Duterte administration intended to sustain our economic growth.
There should be no more delays.
Concept News Central