MANILA, Philippines - The government plans to expand a landmark poverty alleviation scheme that provides cash aid to the country's poorest households to benefit nearly 5 million families, an official said Tuesday.
Three million households currently benefit from the Conditional Cash Transfer program, which provides monetary assistance to families under a number of conditions including that they keep their children in school.
"We plan to continue to expand the program until all 4.8 million families in the (poorest 20 percent of the population) are covered," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.
The program is seen as a key priority for President Benigno Aquino who has proposed to set aside P34.4 billion ($800 million) for the project in the government's 2012 budget.
The government office managing the cash transfer program said it hopes to cover all 4.8 million target families by 2014.
Over 26 percent of the Philippine population of about 95 million people are considered by the government to be living in poverty.
Begun by the previous government, Aquino expanded the program after he was elected in 2010, drawing from the experiences of other countries that have had success in reducing poverty through cash transfers.
Describing Aquino's views, Purisima said: "Education is the great equalizer for the poor."
The scheme will also help ensure that healthier, better-educated children will improve the work force in the future, Purisima added.