House to continue pursuing and funding poverty reduction programs

Photo from NAPC.GOV.PH

SPEAKER Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez on Friday vowed that the House of Representatives would continue pursuing and funding programs of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. intended to improve the lives of millions of poor Filipinos.

The leader of the 300-plus-strong House of Representatives made the commitment in reaction to the report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) that poverty incidence in the country has dropped to 22.4 percent of the population in the first half of 2023 from 23.7 percent in the same period in 2021.

According to the PSA, the 22.4-percent rate translated to 25.24 million Filipinos, while the 1.3-percentage-point drop meant that almost 900,000 individuals lifted themselves from poverty.

“We are happy for 900,000 of our countrymen whose situation has improved from being poor over the past two years. We will continue to help the more than 25 million get out of poverty through intervention programs Congress, principally the House where the national budget emanates, should consistently fund,” Speaker Romualdez said.

To complement such programs, he said House members and other lawmakers and local government officials, individually or collectively, undertake their own assistance projects that benefit their constituents.

“We hope we can reduce poverty to a single-digit rate by the end of the term of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., as he has set out to do when he assumed the presidency,” he said.

The House leader cited the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation, TUPAD (Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers), free college education, free health insurance, and the grant of direct cash subsidies as among government intervention measures aimed at reducing poverty.

He said the House has chosen to exercise its oversight power as needed to bring down the price of rice and other staples at affordable levels by fighting inflation, smuggling, hoarding, price manipulation, and similar abusive practices.

He earlier disclosed that for the first time, Congress has included in the 2024 national budget P60-billion for a new program called AKAP (Ayuda sa Kapos ang Kita), under which 12 million poor and low-income families would receive a one-time financial grant of P5,000.

At four members per family, AKAP is projected to benefit 48 million Filipinos.

The Speaker said some P500 billion ‘ayuda’ in the 2024 budget is allocated for social service-related programs.

Citing a World Bank study, he said there is concrete evidence that direct cash grants are an effective tool for lessening poverty among the population.

“Our own 4Ps is proof of this. Many beneficiary-families have improved their situation by producing college graduates,” he said.

He cited a new report carried by the Philippine Information Agency last December 11 that 31 children of 4Ps families have recently completed their college education and have passed their licensure examinations – 25 teachers, four accountants and two engineers.

The 4Ps criteria include an undertaking that a family receiving monthly cash assistance should keep its children in school.

“We are happy as well for those graduates and their families,” Speaker Romualdez said.

As his personal poverty reduction project, the House leader has launched CARD (for Cash Assistance and Rice Distribution).

“Nabuo ang programang ito bilang sagot sa hamon ng ating Pangulong Ferdinand Marcos Jr. sa Kongreso na tumulong kung paano mabibigyan ng mura at magandang klase ng bigas ang ating mga komunidad,” he said.

In partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, CARD teams have distributed rice and financial assistance to thousands of beneficiaries in Metro Manila and several provinces, including Laguna, Biliran, Davao de Oro, Leyte, Camarines Sur, and Ilocos Norte.

CARD was launched in Metro Manila’s 33 legislative districts, with each having 10,000 poor and vulnerable beneficiaries for an initial total of 330,000 recipients.

The amount of assistance each recipient gets totals at least P2,000: P950 for 25 kilos of rice at P38 per kilo and the remaining cash is for other food essentials.

Beneficiaries include senior citizens, persons with disability, solo parents, and indigenous people.

CARD targets to reach tens of thousands of poor Filipinos in all legislative districts throughout the country.

Earlier, Speaker Romualdez said bared that Congress earmarked funds under the P5.768-trillion 2024 national budget to implement a revolutionary program of the Marcos administration that would drive down the price of good quality rice by almost half for seven million families or 28 million Filipinos under challenging situations through monthly rice discount vouchers.

“This subsidy program is our strong response to President Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr.’s call to the House of Representatives to come up with means to bring down the price of rice for disadvantaged Filipino families in difficult situations. It will benefit seven million families across legislative districts in the country, or roughly 28 million people,” said Speaker Romualdez on the program which is eyeing to allow each family to buy 25 kilograms of affordable and good quality rice monthly.

Initially dubbed Bagong Pilipinas Community Assistance and Rice Discount (CARD), the new program was formulated in partnership with DSWD Sec. Rex Gatchalian and the local government units (LGUs).