Senate President Vicente Sotto III has urged the government to give help in the form of cash amounting to P5,000 to P8,000 instead of “goods” or “in kind” for intended beneficiaries of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Sotto has also urged the beneficiaries to do their own budget in buying what they need using the cash provided by the government.
If the cash is already with them, Sotto said they can buy what they want.
“That is what we’re thinking. That’s what the Senate, Congress are thinking,” said Sotto.
Hs also noted that it would be much easier to provide the assistance in the form of cash than “in kind” as goods would still be bought, packed and then distributed.
Sotto said he would talk to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to clarify the plan regarding the social amelioration program.
In President Rodrigo Duterte’s first report to the Congress, the emergency subsidy program “includes the provision of cash or non-cash subsidy for low-income household beneficiaries amounting from P5,000 to P8,000 per month for two months.”
Last week, Congress passed the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act,” principally authored by Sotto, to hasten the release of the budget to assist around 18 million low-income households in the informal sector as the country faces the COVID-19 health emergency.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go appealed to the Executive Department to grant a one-time “Bayanihan” financial assistance to cities and municipalities to help them respond to the needs of their constituents while the country is addressing the COVID-19 health emergency and the socioeconomic impact that comes with it.
While the national government is taking charge in this time of crisis, Go said LGUs should take responsibility as well in addressing the needs of their constituents.
Go also commended the LGUs for their efforts in maintaining order in their areas and in responding to the immediate needs of the people.
He recommended that a one-time grant from the national government, equivalent to one month of their respective internal revenue allotments (IRA), will go a long way in enhancing the capabilities of LGUs in responding to the crisis.
Go cited salient provisions of the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” as bases for his proposal. He emphasized that the law has already given the necessary authority and flexibility to the government to utilize the funds as deemed necessary to respond and address the growing threats of COVID-19.
As a member of the Joint Oversight Committee of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, he will make sure that available funds are used properly and are maximized to provide immediate help to Filipinos who need government attention the most.
He said the one-time “Bayanihan” financial assistance for cities and municipalities can be taken from available funds or savings of the national government.
Go said that the grant should be used exclusively for projects, programs and activities concerning the COVID-19 situation, such as procurement of personal protective equipment for frontline service providers; medicines and vitamins; hospital equipment and supplies; disinfectants and related equipment; relief goods for low-income and vulnerable households; and tents for temporary shelter of the homeless.
Go proposed that the grant may also be used for food, transportation and accommodation expenses of medical personnel and other LGU personnel involved in activities related to the COVID-19 situation; lease or rental of quarantine centers; and other necessary expenses.
He clarified that the grant should be on top of other assistance that national government agencies are already providing to LGUs.
Go reminded LGUs to make sure that the assistance reaches those who need government help the most, particularly the poorest of the poor, vulnerable sectors and displaced workers.
He also said that politics should not be a factor in providing such assistance./Stacy Ang