MANILA - The Department of Social Welfare and Development is pushing for the expansion of "digital ayuda" or the digitalization of social protection programs to make them more inclusive and quicken aid distribution.
At the Asia Pacific Social Protection Week 2023 organized by the Asian Development Bank, DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the agency wants to expand its digitalization efforts to lessen long lines of those wanting to get assistance.
Gatchalian said he wants to implement full digital cash aid disbursements to more programs of the government.
Gatchalian told representatives from different countries that so far in the Philippines, the "food stamp" program is purely digital and beneficiaries are not given physical cash. This makes it easier to distribute aid and poor families need not queue up and wait for a long time. This has also been the process in the 4Ps or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
“We want to make sure that every single social protection, financial assistance program there is in the department should be in a digital format. We should do away with lines, we should do away with physical vouchers, we should do away with physical cash,” Gatchalian said.
There are also plans to introduce the "anticipatory action cards" supported by ADB, the World Food Programme, and other development partners. This card will be given to poor families and will be loaded with cash in case of disasters or other calamities, the DSWD chief said.
On the regulatory side, Gatchalian revealed that nongovernment organizations or foundations will soon just pass their requirements for permits online and no longer need to hand them physically to DSWD offices.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if every single Filipino beneficiary of our social amelioration program were packed in, are financially included? And at the same time the power of their digital platform should be able to get them whatever assistance they need from the government,” he added.
Yusuf Khan, Secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Poverty Alleviation and Social Safety, and Anne Herman, Secretary of Cook Islands’ Ministry of Internal Affairs, also joined the plenary.
They shared their countries’ programs on social protection and both agreed on the efforts to digitize the distribution of aid. They also highlighted the importance of having an updated list of individuals or beneficiaries.
All officials present at the forum agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way aid is distributed and now with new technologies, they said the government must also embrace them to make it easier for the public to receive the assistance.
There is also a need to secure databases against cyber fraud, which Gatchalian noted is being done in the country.
The ADB forum, which will run until Thursday, has attracted hundreds of delegates from across the region.