World Bank grants $600-M loan to support pandemic-affected households in PH

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 1) - The World Bank announced on Wednesday its approval of a new project loan amounting to $600 million (about ₱29 billion) to help the Philippines mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

The international lending institution said around four million low-income Filipino households affected by the COVID-19 pandemic will benefit from this loan project named Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project.

The $600-million grant is also aimed at supporting the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) implement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and pursue Fast, Innovative, and Responsive Service Transformation (FIRST) for beneficiaries.

"These efforts are critical to ensure that their children can remain in school and stay healthy as the country takes measures to control this pandemic. In these difficult times, cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable indirectly support local economies and boost prospects for recovery," said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank country director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand.

The World Bank-funded project also seeks to accelerate efforts to modernize the DSWD's payment delivery systems and promote financial literacy among beneficiaries. It will have the cooperation of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

"Shifting to the use of digital platforms and technologies for delivery of social protection programs and services is a high priority agenda of the government that we are excited to support," said Yoonyoung Cho, World Bank senior economist.

Around 4.3 million poor families are under 4Ps where the government provides cash grants to ensure their children stay healthy and in school, reduce dropout rates and discourage child labor, among other benefits.

The DSWD released ₱99.91 billion to 17.69 million low-income Filipino families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during the first tranche of the social amelioration program from April to June. Each family received at least ₱5,000 up to ₱8,000.

For the second tranche, the government utilized digital channels in distributing cash aid, but only 13.9 million families received the subsidy amounting to ₱83.05 billion, or ₱16.86 billion less than the first tranche.

The World Bank's financing program to the Philippines' COVID-19 response totals $1.7 billion (around ₱82.4 billion), with the Washington-based lender having approved a $100 million (about ₱5 billion) loan in March, a $500 million (about ₱25 billion) loan in April, and another $500 million (about ₱25 billion) loan in May.