Robredo to Duterte gov't: Give poorest Filipino families P5,000 a month

Vice President Leni Robredo urged the government to consider giving each of the 10 million poorest Filipino families a monthly cash aid worth P5,000 for 4 months to help them recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

This was among the Vice President's 11 recommendations to President Rodrigo Duterte's government as it scrambles to save the economy from the crippling COVID-19 crisis. 

In a 20-minute video posted on Facebook, Robredo said her extended cash aid proposal would cost the government another P200 billion, but it's a small amount to pay if it means saving millions from starvation.

"Mayroon nang Listahanan ang DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) para matukoy sila. Kung mabibigyan ng P5,000 kada buwan para sa 4 na buwan ang 10 million poorest families, aabutin ito ng P200 billion. Maliit na halaga ito para mailigtas sila mula sa gutom," Robredo said. 

(DSWD already has a list to identify them. Giving 5,000 pesos monthly for 4 months to the 10 million poorest families sums up to P200 billion. It is a small amount to save our fellow Filipinos from hunger.)

The Vice President then said the government's cash-for-work initiatives should also be harmonized with the ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery programs. 

This way, the Duterte administration can hit two birds with one stone. Case in point: Robredo suggested hiring some of the 15 million indigent Filipinos as contact tracers.

"May mahigit 15 million na katao sa Listahanan ng DSWD; maaaring i-hire ang marami sa kanila, through the LGU, para makatulong sa contact tracing. Kung magagawa ito, tataas ang kapasidad natin for contact tracing at maaampat ang pagkalat ng COVID-19," the Vice President said. 

(The DSWD's Listahanan database has more than 15 million families. Many of them can be hired through the LGU to help with contact tracing. If this can be accomplished, we can augment and strengthen our contact tracing capabilities and we can abate the spread of COVID-19.)

The now-expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Act had allotted P200 billion for its emergency subsidy program (ESP) targeting 18 million low-income families. But the cash aid covered only two months of the pandemic.

The ESP has also been riddled with problems, from inaccurate lists of qualified beneficiaries to slow distribution of the cash aid across different localities. 

As of August 21, over 900,000 families were still waiting for the promised financial relief as the DSWD failed to meet its self-imposed deadline on August 15.  

Apart from the cash aid extension and improving the cash-for-work programs, Robredo's 9 other proposals to help save the economy from COVID-19 are as follows:

  • Standardize an effective contact tracing app that all local government units can use.
  • Create an unemployment insurance system.
  • Empower businesses to shift their products and services toward addressing the needs brought about by the pandemic, like garment companies producing personal protective equipment.
  • Help micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) shift to digital sales.
  • Provide support for MSMEs like wage subsidies and low-interest loans.
  • Provide reintegration and livelihood programs for displaced overseas Filipino workers.
  • Increase support for fisherfolk and farmers by swiftly constructing infrastructure they need, like farm-to-market roads and cold storage facilities.
  • Increase wages of employees, especially health workers.
  • Put up shared cell sites in areas where there is weak or no signal at all.

This is now the third time Robredo has given a list of proposals to help boost the Duterte government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

On June 30, Robredo wrote a letter to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque specifying her concrete suggestions to improve the way the government is battling COVID-19. 

Then on July 30 – 3 days after Duterte's 5th State of the Nation Address – the Vice President released a 22-minute Facebook video identifying 8 key shortcomings in the government's COVID-19 response and providing solutions to fix each of these problems.

The Vice President herself has spent the past months helping fill the gaps that her office has identified in the government's pandemic response. (READ: 'Not time to keep score': Robredo focuses on frontliners, not politics)

These include assisting frontliners by raising millions worth of funds to provide them with personal protective equipment sets, test kits, food packs, dormitories for those who have no place to sleep, and even a free shuttle service when the government was not yet finished establishing its own transport system for frontliners.

Robredo's office was able to pull these off despite a lack of budget by partnering with different private institutions and nongovernmental organizations, then linking them to medical facilities and local governments in need. – Rappler.com

Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda writes about politics and women’s rights for Rappler. She covers the House of Representatives and the Office of the Vice President. Got tips? Send her an email at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or shoot her a tweet @maracepeda.

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