Duterte approves in-kind assistance to vulnerable sectors in areas under ECQ

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 30) – President Rodrigo Duterte approved on Monday a supplemental amelioration program for low-income residents of Metro Manila and four nearby provinces, which were placed under enhanced community quarantine until April 4 due to rising COVID-19 cases.

"'Yung mga nadiskaril sa finances nila, 'yung mga naghirap sa pera dahil hindi makalabas, dasal lang kayo. We will give you the ayuda," said Duterte during the weekly Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases meeting.

[Translation: Those whose finances got derailed and lost their income because they cannot go out, just pray. We will give you the assistance.]

Budget Sec. Wendel Avisado said the aid that will be given by the national government will be in kind and will be coursed through local government units.

"Wala po tayong cash dito. We will leave it to the local government units dahil sila po talaga ang first line na pinupuntahan ng mga tao, na sila ang mag-allocate nito," Avisado told the President.

[Translation: We will not distribute cash. We will leave it to the local government units because they are really the first line where people go to and they should be the ones to allocate it.]

Close to 23 million low-income individuals from Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna will receive an in-kind doleout worth ₱1,000. The aid will be limited to a maximum of four members per family.

Avisado said the Budget Department will release around ₱23 billion to LGUs in the five ECQ areas for the distribution of goods. The funding came from Bureau of Treasury-certified sources as stipulated in the Bayanihan 2 law, such as debt exchange transactions, savings from interest payments, additional revenues, available cash balances, and revenues from government securities.

Avisado also assured Duterte the disbursement of funds for the in-kind assistance does not need the concurrence of Congress as the Bayanihan 2 law grants the President an authority to use any unutilized funds meant for pandemic response.

"Wala po tayong ginalaw na budget for this year dahil ito po 'yung mga sobra na hindi pa natin nagagamit," said Avisado.

[Translation: We did not get any funds from this year's national budget because the allocation came from our savings.]

The Budget secretary explained the audit of funds will be the same as the cash aid given during the first months of the lockdown last year, where LGUs will submit the list of beneficiaries and disbursement report to check how they spent the funds.

"Siguruhin nila na maibibigay nila, kung hindi mananagot po talaga sila, ang mga mayors natin. Sa kanila pong nakasalalay ang madaliang pagbibigay ng ayuda sa kanilang mga nasasakupan," said Avisado.

[Translation: The LGUs should guarantee the distribution of the allotted funds, or else the mayors will be held accountable. It is up to them to provide immediate assistance to their constituents.]

Duterte advised Avisado to require LGUs to use the same list of beneficiaries who received cash aid under the Bayanihan 1 law for the speedy distribution of the in-kind assistance.

"They (LGUs) should adopt our list in Bayanihan 1 because that would ensure that the real benefits are given to the real person," the President said.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act or Bayanihan 1 implemented in 2020, a ₱5,000 to ₱8,000 subsidy was given to each pandemic-hit low-income household.