Cash subsidies of P5,000 to P8,000 each a month will be distributed to some 18 million poor Filipino families for two months to tide them over the effects of the one-month enhanced community quarantine that the government imposed to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The financial package seeks to help those in the margins of the society to help them rebuild their lives after the pandemic, based on the stimulus law called “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” that President Rodrigo Duterte signed late Tuesday. It also provide the Chief Executive special authorities s to deal with the contagion.
The Department of Health’s latest report showed 636 total infections as of 4 p.m. yesterday with 84 new recorded cases.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go countering opposition claims that the law will be abused said he will ensure that the government cash aid reaches the intended beneficiaries.
“The families will get cash so that these can be used immediately. It will be good for 2 months. The assistance will be based on the minimum wage in a particular area. For instance, in Metro Manila where the daily wage is higher, P8,000 will be granted. In the provinces, they’ll get P5,000 each,” he said.
Go also assured that poor families who are not under the government’s conditional cash transfer program will still receive the cash aid as long as local government units identify them as indigent families.
“The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) beneficiaries are about 4 million families. The target in the law is bigger at about 18 million families. So the beneficiaries include drivers of taxicabs, tricycles, pedicabs, motor taxis, vendors and all those who needed financial assistance,” he said.
The law provided that in the grant of the cash subsidy, the conditional cash transfer program and rice subsidy of the government shall be taken into account. So, if a conditional cash transfer (CCT) beneficiary presently receives P1,500 a month from the program, the emergency subsidy will provide P6,500 to reach the P8,000 maximum amount. According to the 2020 projections based on the Family Income and Expenditure Survey, there are 18 million low-income households in the Philippines now. The law also authorizes the President to expand and enhance the existing Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program of the government.
People’s sounding board
“I co-authored this law since one taxi driver described to me how difficult it is to be poor. So I said let’s not make life harder for them. We should hasten the release of the assistance,” he added.
Go also mentioned that “the assistance will be given directly to the target beneficiary” as will be provided for by the Implementing Rules and Regulations which is currently in the works.
As for apartment renters and tenants who may need additional time to pay for their rent falling due during the quarantine period, Go said that the recently enacted law will also allow them a 30-day grace period without incurring interests, penalties, fees or other charges.
Mr. Duterte signed the law over a week into the 1-month long lockdown of the main island of Luzon. Under the enhanced community quarantine, people are required to stay at home, businesses are shut except for food, hospitals and medicine and transportation is restricted.
“In view of the continuing rise of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the serious threat to the health, safety, security, and lives of our countrymen, the long-term adverse effects on their means of livelihood, and the severe disruption of economic activities, a state of national emergency is hereby declared over the entire country,” the President said in the law.
“The Filipino people are assured that the President shall exercise the said powers strictly in accordance with the Constitution with the end in goal of putting a stop to the spread of the coronavirus and save the Filipino people from imminent death,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
“This law is effective immediately upon its publication and shall remain in force for three months. The President is also mandated to submit a weekly report of all acts performed thereunder to Congress, which shall establish an oversight committee to determine that said acts are within the restrictions it has imposed,” he added.
At the same time, Panelo said the Office of the President reiterates its appreciation to both chambers of Congress for responding to the call of the times.
The government also pay its respects to doctors and health workers who are front liner heroes for placing their lives on the line even as they mourn for those who have sacrificed their lives just so they could attend and treat the patients afflicted with COVID-19.
“We urge our countrymen to act and move as one nation to slay this scourge of a dragon that imperils our very existence,” Panelo said.
“As the President aptly said in his televised message, “Let us set aside our differences and work in solidarity to overcome this pandemic. We only have one common enemy and that is COVID-19,” he added.
DA seeks P32-B food fund
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is seeking anew a P32-billion supplemental fund to roll out immediate interventions for food production, accessibility, and stabilization amid the enhanced community quarantine being enforced in Luzon.
In a statement on Wednesday, the DA said the supplemental budget should be on top of the department’s existing programs to aid the speedy implementation of Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat Kontra sa COVID-19.
with Maria Romero