MANILA (UPDATED) - Thursday's deadline for local governments to complete the distribution of cash aid that will help the poorest Filipinos cope with the COVID-19 pandemic will be extended for the second time, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said.
As of Wednesday night, about 77.51 percent or 985 out of 1,634 local governments have finished distributing the first tranche of aid for 18 million of the most vulnerable families, DILG Secretary Eduardo Año said, some 8 weeks into the lockdown of Metro Manila and other high-risk areas to contain the respiratory disease.
"For Metro Manila, I'll be extending the deadline up to May 10. For some other areas, it depends on their effort," he told ANC.
The National Capital Region, home to some 12 million people, encountered delays in the aid distribution due to the availability of cash in banks and difficulty in ensuring physical distancing during payout, he said.
"Metro Manila is really a populous region and we have to give them some additional days," said the official.
The government initially allotted P200 billion to give the poorest families stand to get P5,000 to P8,000 each for 2 months. The program will be expanded to cover 5 million more families.
Caraga and Bicol regions are expected to complete the cash distribution on Thursday, said Año.
Beneficiaries are likely to get the second tranche of aid 10 to 15 days after the social welfare department validates the liquidation of the first tranche, he said.
Failure to meet the new payout deadline might "warrant some sanctions", said the Interior Secretary.
Authorities, he said, also arrested 10 village officials and were investigating several others for alleged irregularities with the cash aid like including their relatives among beneficiaries and embezzling the funds.
Año said he instructed the police to exempt from curfew hours those going to pick-up points for the cash aid.