PH's food stamp program in design stage, to target 1 million families

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said a food stamp program, called Walang Gutom 2027, aims to help one million Filipino families belonging to the lowest income bracket.

At a briefing on Tuesday, DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian said the program is still in the design stage, with the pilot set to be launched within the year.

"It's still in the design stage because what's happening right now is we are working with the World Food Program (WFP) who has vast technical expertise when it comes to running food stamp programs worldwide," Gatchalian said.

He said the design stage would take the rest of May and the whole month of June.

“So, the remaining May and June, we will work with designing it. Now, July to December will be the pilot run for those regions that we've identified," he added.

Gatchalian said they have already identified the one million families who would be recipients of the program.

"The 'Walang Gutom 2027' intends to target the bottom one million households from Listahanan 3 who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the Philippine Statistics Authority," Gatchalian added.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Monday said the country and the Asian Development Bank were working on a food stamp program based on an earlier proposal by the DSWD.

In the briefing, Gatchalian said families who would take part in the program are those who do not make over ₱8,000 a month, but added that like other food stamp initiatives, it would be conditional.

"We will supplement the family's intake para mawala yung feeling of hunger, thereby makahanap siya ng trabaho, thereby they become part of the workforce of the country," he said.

"Ang kundisyon is when you're signed up, you have to go to your nearest public employment office, get a certification that you are now being counted as part of the workforce, no matter what job it is."

[Translation: We will supplement the family's intake to eliminate the feeling of hunger. This will enable them to find jobs so they can become part of the country's workforce. The condition is when you're signed up, you have to go to your nearest public employment office, get a certification that you are now being counted as part of the workforce, no matter what job it is.]

As for the areas where the pilot program would be launched, Gatchalian said the sites will have different geopolitical characteristics.

"Mayroon tayo [We have this] in the BARMM area, what used to be a former conflict area; two, geographically isolated regions or provinces; three, in urban poor settings; four -- and four will be calamity drive/stricken areas; and the fifth will be rural poor," he said, adding the government would make sure the context of the program would be appropriate for each area.

Three thousand families will take part in the pilot run. The DSWD hopes to raise that to 300,000 the following year.

"We have to do it in a progressive manner, we have to do the pilot at 3,000 families; 300,000 hopefully next year sa first run; another 300,000 right after and then hopefully reach the magic number of one million on the succeeding year," Gatchalian said, adding they would continuously measure how the program affects beneficiaries.

The DSWD's Walang Gutom 2027 program aims to provide electronic benefit transfers that will be loaded with food credits amounting to ₱3,000 to be used to buy a select list of food commodities from DSWD-accredited retailers.

Gatchalian clarified that it would not be in the form of cash, adding that the government is working with the WFP on a digital platform where those participating in the program will receive cards that will not be loaded with money but food equivalents. The beneficiaries can then choose from different food baskets

"The baskets are always composed of 50% carbs, 30% protein, 20% fats -- so mamimili lang [they will choose] within the food groups," he said. These baskets will be available from specially selected stores.

For the pilot run of the program, Gatchalian said the ADB was "kind enough to provide close to $3 million for the six months pilot that will run in the middle part of this year towards the latter part of this year."

Gatchalian estimated that P40 billion would be needed for Walang Gutom 2027's total run, including administrative costs.