MANILA – A lawmaker on Monday urged the House of Representatives to prioritize the passage of the proposed Bangon Pamilyang Pilipino (BPP) program following a fresh presidential directive for economic managers to explore ways on funding another round of subsidies for families hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte said a third cash subsidy is imperative at this time to boost household income amid the “triple whammy of high unemployment, high hunger rate, and high food prices” resulting from the pandemic.
Villafuerte is referring to the cash subsidy of PHP10,000 per family proposed under House Bill (HB) 8597 or the BPP Assistance Program.
According to a reported disclosure by Senator Christopher Lawrence Go in a radio interview, President Rodrigo Duterte had directed Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado to study how to raise funds for another cash subsidy.
The government has placed the National Capital Region (NCR) along with the four other neighboring provinces that form part of the so-called “NCR Plus bubble” under the stricter enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for a week until Easter Sunday, as the Octa Research Group projected the number of coronavirus infections to soar to 12,000 to 13,000 daily this April.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. also said in Monday’s regular a press briefing that Malacañang supports Go’s proposal on providing aid to poor Filipinos amid the surge in Covid-19 infections.
Villafuerte said funds for the proposed BPP can likely be sourced from the unutilized appropriations and unobligated funds in the 2020 and 2021 national budgets.
He said the government reported in February that there are around PHP452 billion in unutilized funds from the 2020 national budget and PHP204 million in its unobligated cash balance.
The bill aims to treat the cash assistance given to qualified families as “capital” that would help stimulate consumption and revitalize the economy.
“Imagine if we inject PHP200 billion into the economy now. That would pump-prime it,” said Villafuerte. “That money will circulate and will be used to buy necessities and will be used for livelihoods and businesses as the Covid-19 vaccines start arriving for our mass immunization program.”
Under the bill, the priority beneficiaries for the PHP10,000 cash grant are the poorest of the poor, senior citizens, persons with disabilities (PWDs), solo parents, displaced workers, medical front-liners, families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), individuals who were not able to secure aid through the SAP under Bayanihan 1, Philippine National ID holders, and members of vulnerable groups.
In a virtual Palace briefing on Monday, Avisado said the Office of the Executive Security is currently reviewing the special amelioration assistance proposal, funds for which reportedly will come from unutilized allocation from the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act amounting to PHP23 billion.
Citing data from the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Avisado said there will be about 22.9 million beneficiaries for the special assistance.
He, however, did not indicate whether the number of beneficiaries refer to the number of individuals or families.
Once the President approves the proposed subsidy, he added the DBM will immediately issue the special allotment release order (SARO) and the notice of cash allocation (NCA) so the Bureau of the Treasury can disburse the funds to the local government units.
The subsidy is targeted to be released by the middle of next month, he said, citing what he heard Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III as saying. (PNA)