Experts share insights about social protection in PH

Experts share crucial data, lessons, and insights about social protection in Philippines and how to strengthen and improve policies to foster efficiency and adaptability amid frequent economic and political shocks. (Screenshot by Marjune N. Muzones)

By Marjune N. Muzones

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in partnership with World Bank Philippines conducted a webinar entitled “Policy Insights for More Efficient and Adaptive Social Protection in the Philippines” on July 7, 2022, the first in a series of virtual discussions slated for this month.

Invited scholars shared crucial data, lessons, and insights about social protection in the country and how to strengthen and improve policies to become efficient and adaptive amid current economic and political issues, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. Aniceto C. Orbeta Jr., the current President of the PIDS, discussed different research of the institute and shared his views about the current state of social protections in the Philippines such as social health insurance coverage, income security for children and elderly, labor market interventions, social assistance, disaster-related response, and the different lessons brought about by the pandemic.

“I would like to emphasize that in many social protection areas, almost every targeted beneficiary is already covered by some law. We have seen this in the case of health insurance and programs addressing many risks of the working age population in the private and public sectors,” Dr. Orbeta said.

Obstacles remain to be hurdled such as inequality and the lack of a comprehensive and sustainable implementation, evaluation, and monitoring of health and social security coverage for Filipinos.

“When we look at actual coverage however, we see the graphs. That’s the challenge. Closing these gaps is what we should focusing on. In addition, improving the efficiency of the operations of these programs will always be translated to better coverage,” he added.

Dr. Yoonyoung Cho, Senior Economist at the Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice at the World Bank shared insights regarding about social assistance.

According to Dr. Yoon, among the different social protection instruments mentioned, social assistance is the most common in the Philippines. 4Ps, Social Amelioration Program (SAP), and social pension for indigent elderly are just a few examples of well-known programs.

“They play very important roles in protecting poor and vulnerable households in the time of crisis. The country may be transitioning out of the pandemic, but it is exposed to frequent shocks and disasters,” Dr. Yoon stated.

She also added that it is critical to look back and review social assistance responses to the pandemic and reflect on the lessons to build resilience for future shocks which includes the streamlining of contingency financing, clean beneficiary and citizen database, targeted responses, and digitization of delivery systems to promote efficiency, transparency, and adequacy.

A panel discussion by development practitioners and experts followed the presentations. It was moderated by Dr. Michael Abrigo, Senior Research Fellow at PIDS, together with Assistant Secretary Rhea Peñaflor of Specialized Programs in the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Mr. Jun Jay Perez, Executive Director of RIMANSI Organization for Asia and the Pacific Inc., and Dr, Nassreena Sampaco-Baddiri, Country Director of Innovations for Poverty Action-Philippines.

Among the topics are the initiatives as well as the challenges faced by the government and private sectors in delivering social protection services.

“Targeting helps us understand whether we are reaching the people that we want to reach…We know that effective identification of the target population is extremely important to the success of social protection programs with the limited resources that we have,” Dr. Baddiri stated.

Efficiency in terms of the digitalization of data and processes such as digital payments, identification, and information gathering is still a big challenge especially to the delivery of social protection services.

“The use of digital payments remains a challenge especially to the low-income sector. In fact, the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas Financial Inclusion Survey reported that only 1 out of 10 adults use their mobile phones and the internet for financial transactions… The lack of awareness is the most prominent reason for not using these financial services,” Mr, Perez said.

Asst. Secretary Peñaflor meanwhile laid out plans to promote improved services to the public through efficient and proactive measures and empower local government units to assist in the successful delivery of social protection services to the public.

“To prepare LGUs to handle DSWD programs, the Devolution Transition Plan (DTP) provides the LGU implementors and our partners of an orientation to generate their commitment and involve them in the project implementation, case management, MNE training, and the conduct of empowering learning sessions with indigenous people initiatives,” Peñaflor said.

Questions from the attendees in Zoom and Facebook Live were also answered by the panelists and other scholars from the PIDS.

To learn more about the topics discussed, access to the webinar is provided via the PIDS and World Bank Philippines Facebook pages.