Bongbong Marcos: Time to examine CCT

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 25 2014 12:41 AM | Updated as of Nov 25 2014 08:41 AM

MANILA - Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has called for an examination of the government's centerpiece anti-poverty measure, noting how it has done little to reduce poverty in the country.

During deliberations on the Department of Social Welfare and Development's (DSWD) proposed 2015 budget on Monday, Marcos said the P64.7 billion budget for the conditional cash transfer (CCT) or Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipinong Program (4Ps) may not be worth it.

Marcos said poverty incidence in the country barely changed in the past few years despite the CCT.

“We have reached diminishing returns on this very large public investment. Perhaps it is time to examine…and see how it was in the beginning of the program,” he said.

“P64.7 billion is a very large chunk of our national treasure if it is not doing the job any longer,” Marcos added. “In principle it is something I agree with, but perhaps it its time to recognize that we cannot ask too much, this much of this single program of government.”

Senator Ralph Recto, speaking on behalf of the DSWD, said poverty in the country would have gone worse without the program.

“This is like a social safety net. It is like a minimum wage policy. A minimum wage policy will not necessarily bring about by itself economic growth. But it is necessary,” he said.

“It is not the entire solution to poverty but it is part of a bigger solution.”

Earlier, Senator JV Ejercito suggested turning the CCT into a cash-for-work program that will provide the poor with jobs while boosting the country’s infrastructure.

Ejercito noted that the government has spent more than P300 billion since the 4Ps began in 2008.

“With P300 billion, we could have used it for the major infrastructure projects that our county direly needs,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be like hitting two birds with one stone if we spent about P300 billion in infrastructure and we could have provided cash for work, and at the same time we could have addressed one of our weaknesses, which is infrastructure?”

“At the same time, we are able to provide jobs by employing the CCT beneficiaries for cash for work,” Ejercito added.

The senator pointed out that the Philippines continues to lag behind other Asian countries in terms of foreign direct investments because of the high power cost and poor infrastructure.

Recto said, however, that other programs of the agency are already providing cash for work.

He stressed that the main condition of the 4Ps is for families to send their children to school and for mothers to have regular health check-ups.

“It is also an investment for our youth,” Recto said.

Recto also said that as the country’s economy improves, the government’s fiscal space also grows, resulting in an increase in the budget of programs that seek to fight poverty.

Funds for government departments are also increasing, especially for the Department of Education, the agency with the highest proposed budget at P322 billion and whose funding has doubled since 2010.

Asked by Ejercito about the possibility the CCT is being used a political tool by the Aquino administration, Recto said. “It is a program to reduce poverty. And if that is political, then so be it.”