MANILA - Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Tuesday urged the national government to use mobile money transfers to expedite the distribution of cash ai for 18 million poor families affected by the coronavirus crisis.
Telecommunication companies "offer mobile money transfers" that can provide "quicker cash payments" to "geographic pockets of poverty," Pangilinan said in a statement, quoting his letter to Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
Duque also chairs the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which is in charge of formulating the country's COVID-19 policies.
"Ito'ng minumungkahi naming alternatibong paraan ay para mabilis na makaabot ang tulong sa mga mahihirap at gutom," the senator said.
(This is our suggestion of an alternative ways for the assistance to quickly reach the poor and hungry.)
The government can remit the cash aid to intended beneficiaries through mobile money transfer, or recipients can receive it through authorized remittance centers already present in communities, Pangilinan said.
He admitted the system in place might not be perfect as some families do not have mobile phones, but bureaucracy is slowing down the release of the cash aid.
"Pero habang tumatagal ang paglabas ng listahan ng bibigyan ng ayuda, lalong dumadami ang nagugutom. Baka pwedeng pag-aralan ang ating suggestion," he said.
(But while the list of cash aid beneficiaries continues to be withheld, more people starve. Perhaps they could study this suggestion.)
The Bayanihan to Heal as One Act guarantees that 18 million poor families will be given a 2-month subsidy amounting between P10,000 and P16,000, depending on the wage rate in their respective regions.
As of April 18, the Department of Social Welfare and Development has distributed the financial assistance to 4 million families, or less than a quarter of the total number of beneficiaries, according to President Rodrigo Duterte's fourth weekly report to Congress.