MANILA, Philippines - Indolent Indios, inhabitants of the Philippines were once called. But Corazon Juliano-Soliman resents that tag given especially to poor Filipinos.
“Let’s not forget that while we’re in deep slumber, at 4 o’clock in the morning, farmers and fisherfolk are already tilling the soil or at sea, the urban poor who put the city to bed the night before are waking up for another day,” the secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.
Soliman told a roundtable with the BusinessMirror on August 23 that marginalized city residents are the latest target of the government’s five-year-old program that gives P2,800 every 75 days to each poor Filipino family with three children.
She said the “modified” Conditional Cash-Transfer (CCT) Program started this month, zeroing in on 700 families sleeping in or beside wooden pushcarts around the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila.
The figure was determined by a field survey that the DSWD conducted in the region in July this year.
The modified CCT, Soliman said, would offer these “nomads” money for monthly house rental, P300 for every child every month and a P500 monthly health grant. She added that the family would also be offered livelihood “either here or in the province.”
Initially, Soliman said, the children would be enrolled in an alternative learning center first and a regular school later.
“We first need to get them to stay in a fixed place because that’s the basic thing they need, a place to stay.”
The modified CCT Program comes as a response to criticism that the original program, begun by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2008 also through the DSWD under Esperanza Cabral, is not working. Critics cite the presence of children begging in public-utility vehicles and families cooking, eating and sleeping on roadsides in Metro Manila.
An impact evaluation by the World Bank (WB) presented on Thursday, however, revealed that the CCT Program is making a dent in the health and nutrition of mothers and the schooling, health and nutrition of children.
Initial analysis of the WB evaluation said “children 3 to 5 years old in CCT barangays [villages] have a 10-percent higher enrollment rate in day care or preschool compared to children in control barangays.”
The control barangays were areas where implementation of the CCT Program was consciously delayed for experimentation purposes, a DWSD statement said. The department “set aside eight municipalities across four provinces in which barangays were randomly assigned for immediate implementation of the program in some barangays [treatment barangays or CCT barangays],” the statement added.
The initial analysis said “children from beneficiary households are more likely to regularly attend school.”
“Children 6 to 11 years old in CCT barangays have a 4-percent higher rate of regular attendance [defined as 85 percent or higher attendance] compared to children in control barangays,” it added.
On the other hand, “mothers who were pregnant in the last three years in CCT barangays reported a 10-percent higher rate of a minimum of antenatal care service coverage compared to mothers in control barangays,” according to the initial analysis.
In addition, the analysis also revealed “7 percent more children 0 to 5 years old in CCT barangays received deworming pills compared to children in control barangays,” while 9 percent more children of the same age range and barangay “were fed eggs in the past one week than children in control barangays.”
These accomplishments were done on a P39-billion budget allotment for the CCT for 2012. Of this amount, about P35 billion will be given as cash grants to about 3.04 million households enrolled in the CCT. Soliman said this allotment comes from the P45-billion budget allocation for the DSWD for this year.
But, the social welfare chief added, “The CCT Program is not a magic bullet.” She said the program, also referred to as the Pantawid Pamilya program, is just one of the government’s poverty-reduction initiatives.
“Pantawid Pamilya is a ‘bridge’ program toward poverty alleviation, not a total poverty-alleviation measure,” according to a presentation made by the DSWD secretary.
Soliman said it is too early to see the full impact of the CCT Program since they expect the full benefits to be felt only after a decade.
“But what is important is we’re still on track in our goal of inclusive growth, meaning that by the time that the Philippines feel the full impact of economic progress, these children [covered by the program] would at least be able to read and write and have a chance to be part of that progress.”