PH food stamp program to require beneficiaries to enroll in DOLE’s training programs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 4) —The Marcos administration’s food stamp program will require the beneficiary families to be involved in labor-capacity building to "lessen" their dependence on government aid, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

DSWD Undersecretary Edu Punay on Saturday said the agency is working on the design of the food program called Walang Gutom 2027.

“Isang very novel aspect that we’re introducing, or component, is iyong conditionality. Ang gusto natin [mabawasan] iyong dependency ng ating mga beneficiary sa government assistance na nakikita natin, for example sa 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program), [dahil] talagang masyadong dependent na,” he said in a news forum.

[Translation: A very novel aspect that we’re introducing, or component, is conditionality. We want to lessen the beneficiaries dependency on government assistance, which we are seeing, for example, in 4Ps, because they have been very dependent on it.]

“Admittedly, ang ating ilang beneficiaries diyan, ayaw nang umalis sa 4Ps kahit na due for graduation na sila. Ito iyong gusto nating iwasan sa mga bagong program nating gagawin. That’s why we have the conditionalities now for the food stamp program,” he explained.

[Translation: Admittedly, some of the beneficiaries do not want to leave the 4Ps even if they are due for graduation. This is what we want to avoid in the new program that we will do.]

Punay said the government plans to enroll the beneficiaries in the training programs of the Department of Labor and Employment and its attached agency, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) so that the government “can capacitate them to stand on their own."

"So that when they graduate after three or four years, mayroon na silang trabaho (they have jobs). They can sustain their livelihood. They can sustain their food requirements," he added.

[Translation: This is the target of this program so that when they graduate after three or four years, they have work. They can sustain their livelihood. They can sustain their food requirements.]

Last May, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the food stamp program will begin its pilot run from July to December in geographically isolated regions or provinces, urban poor settings, calamity-stricken areas, and rural poor settings. He also said the pilot run will also be implemented in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Under the food stamp program, beneficiaries will be provided electronic benefit transfers that will contain ₱3,000 worth of food credits to be used to buy a select list of food commodities from DSWD-accredited retailers.

The Asian Development Bank will provide $3 million for the six-month pilot run of the program, which aims to target the "bottom one million households from Listahanan 3 who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the Philippine Statistics Authority."

RELATED: Lawmaker: Food stamp program should manage surplus food, prices

In a separate statement, Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, chairperson of the House Committee on Ways and Means, suggested that the food stamp program should include a plan to manage the surplus agricultural products and to boost farmers' income.

"As it was originally implemented in the US, where the food stamp program is most prevalent and arguably most successful, you can have a specific amount for general food items, and you can have a special stamp or voucher for surplus produce," Salceda said on Sunday.

"What the farmers can get for surplus produce are food stamps for the general program. So, you help solve their food insecurity issues. You take out the surplus, helping manage prices. And you provide free surplus food to those who need it. It's a great synergy," he added.

The lawmaker also proposed to use the revenues of the sweetened beverage tax to fund the food stamp program.

According to Salceda, the sweetened beverage tax under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law designates around 30% of its revenues to social measures, which include "Social mitigating measures and investments in: (i) education, (ii) health, targeted nutrition, and anti-hunger programs for mothers, infants, and young children."

"We were also not able to earmark programs for sugar farmers under the law. And we should have. That was part of the deal. So, I strongly suggest that if we are going to do this, let's pilot it for poor sugar farmers," he added.

Meanwhile, fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas wants the government to implement programs that will strengthen "local agri-fisheries production" instead of pushing for "band-aid solutions" to address hunger in the country.

READ: Fisherfolk's group seeks long-term support to strengthen local food production, not 'unsustainable' food stamps