DOF chief favors financing existing social protection programs over cash subsidies

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said that the government should prioritize implementing existing social protection programs over another round of COVID-19 social amelioration subsidies, which has hardly any urgent basis given the continuous recovery of the economy and the full restoration of public mobility.

“With the normalization, it is more appropriate to continue the existing social protection programs — the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) welfare grants for poor families with children of school age, support for senior citizens, assistance to displaced workers, etc. The ayudas associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, such as in Bayanihan I and II, should cease as normalization is achieved and as we learn to live with the virus,” Diokno said.

Diokno said that the distribution of ayudas or cash aids were justified during the height of lockdowns and restricted mobility of citizens.

He said that citizens are now free to move around, while face-to-face classes are already back.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the government will not implement lockdowns anymore.

“Public finances are finite. They have to be allocated judiciously for programs and projects that would result in the greatest benefit for the greatest number of citizens and the overall welfare,” said Secretary Diokno.

Secretary Diokno cited, for instance, the financing requirement for the recently approved Republic Act No. 11916, or the Social Pension for Indigent Seniors Act which lapsed into law on July 30, 2022. Thelaw doubled the monthly pension for senior citizens from P500 to P1,000.

“It’s better to use public resources for the indigent seniors, if funds are available, than for the ayudas meant for the general public,” said Secretary Diokno.