Palace cold to calls to abolish cash transfers

By Jorge Carino, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 05 2014 05:50 PM | Updated as of Aug 06 2014 01:50 AM

MANILA - Malacanang is not amenable to the House minority bloc's position to scrap the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program of the Aquino administration that has benefited millions of poor Filipinos.

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. enumerated the gains of the Aquino administration in reducing poverty because of CCT.

He said from one million poor families in 2010, beneficiaries of the CCT or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) have increased to 4.1 million families.

The Aquino administration is now targeting to reach five million families for 2015.

"Sa sunud-sunod na pag-aaral ng World Bank, AusAID at iba pang internasyonal na ahensya, napatunayan din na napabuti ang kalidad ng pamumuhay ng mga kabahayan o mga pamilyang benepisyaryo ng conditional cash transfer program. Nananalig kami na sa pagtutuos ng mga datos at aktuwal na naging resulta ng conditional cash transfer ay patuloy na bibigyan ito ng suporta ng ating Kongreso sa pagpasa ng pambansang budget para sa taong ito," he said.

Launched in 2008, the CCT program gives conditional cash grants to indigent families who have kids ages 14 years old and below. A P500 monthly cash grant is given for health and nutrition expenses while P300 monthly cash grant is given per child for educational expenses.

Only a maximum of 3 children per household are allowed to receive stipends, for a maximum total of P1,400 (about $30.76) a month for a household with at least 3 children. In return, beneficiaries are required to send their children to school, and the mothers must go for regular prenatal or postnatal care.

Coloma refuted claims that the Aquino administration failed to reduce poverty significantly after four years, with only a three percent decrease in poverty incidence since 2013.

"Ang datos ang pinakamabuting batayan. Aksyon, hindi salita, ang mahalaga rito," he said.

He said that before the Aquino administration came into power, government's strategy against poverty had been focused on boosting the economy in the hopes that it will trickle down to the poor.

"Ano ang naging resulta? Malawakang kahirapan pa rin," he said.

He said that in 1991, the poverty incidence ratio was 32 percent. The Aquino administration is targeting to cut the number by half by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development Goals.

"Pansinin natin. Itinakda 'yang layunin na 'yan noon pang 1991 o 23 taon na ang nakalipas. Mula noon hanggang 2012, naibaba lamang mula 32 hanggang 27.9 percent, ano. Ibig sabihin, sa loob ng 21 taon, ang ibinaba ng kahirapan ay five percent. Pero doon sa isang taon, mula 2012 hanggang 2013, ang naitalang pagbaba ay tatlong porsyento na kaagad," he said.

The Palace clarified that the poverty incidence ratio should not be confused with the fluctuations in inflation rate because the two are different set of data.

Coloma said that data from the Philippine Statistical Authority revealed the country's poverty threshold in year 2012 was at P7,821 monthly income for families. This has increased to P8,022 in 2013.

"Ang average income of poor families per month, P6,295 'nung first semester of 2012. Naitaas na ito sa P6,653—pagdagdag ng 358 piso kada buwan o 5.69 porsyentong pagtaas," he said.