Palace ready to defend P39-B cash transfer program to Congress

By Aurea Calica, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 13 2012 01:37 AM | Updated as of Jul 13 2012 09:37 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang said Thursday it is ready to defend before Congress the P39-billion proposed allocation for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program in the 2013 national budget.

“The different agencies involved in the (CCT program) are ready to answer questions of our legislators regarding the program,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

The human development and poverty reduction Cabinet cluster cited the “heartening” results of the Social Weather Stations hunger survey that showed a drop of 20 percent in the number of Filipino families experiencing hunger since June 2011.

The May 24 to 27 results also indicated that the number went down from 4.8 million households last March to just 3.8 million.

This is consistent with their findings on poverty and food poverty, where the proportion of food-poor families sank from 45 percent to 39 percent.

The occurrence of involuntary hunger in Filipino households was said to be at a record high in March, posting 23.8 percent.

But improved economic conditions overall and vigorous efforts on the part of government to fight poverty and hunger may have contributed to the lowering of self-rated hunger to only 18.4 percent, the statement from the cluster said.

From a regional perspective, overall hunger plummeted by almost 14 points, from 28 percent to 14.3 percent (or 1.3 million families) throughout Luzon.

In Metro Manila, it fell by over eight points, from 24.3 percent to 16 percent (or 454,000 families).

In contrast, results from the Southern regions show an increase in hunger, posting a rise of over seven points (from 7.7 to 15 percent) in the Visayas and a little over two percent in Mindanao (from 20 to 22.3 percent).

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out that such findings mirror the gradual effect of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) programs like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps or CCT), the supplemental feeding program and the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS).

Senate finance committee chairman Sen. Franklin Drilon and House committee on appropriations chairman Joseph Emilio Abaya have scheduled a briefing with the DSWD to discuss the developments in the implementation of the CCT program.

“It is important that we conduct a review of the effectiveness and efficiency of the conditional cash transfer program that is primarily conceptualized to uplift the lives of the poorest Filipino families,” Drilon said.

Drilon said P39 billion – from P21 billion in 2011 – was allocated for the CCT program for next year.

“We want to reduce it to about seven percent (of the entire CCT budget). One area that we will look into is how to move the administrative cost into actual grants. We believe that the budget can cover more beneficiaries by reducing administrative costs,” he explained.

During the public hearing, DSWD Secretary Dinky Soliman said that a big portion of the multi-billion administrative expenses would go to salaries of about 100 workers involved in the implementation of the project. – With Christina Mendez