DSWD wants appeal mechanism for small-scale rice retailers to get cash aid

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 6) — Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian has asked the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to set up an appeal mechanism for small-scale rice retailers who will receive a ₱15,000 subsidy due to the price cap on rice.

In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source on Wednesday, Gatchalian said his agency is set to meet trade officials to discuss the final list of qualified small-scale rice retailers, as well as details of the subsidy.

“One thing for sure, we asked DTI to make sure there is a way of appealing,” Gatchalian said, stressing that there is no “perfect list.”

“If you feel that you should be part of the list, there should be an appeal mechanism, as in all government programs, so that you get to still enjoy the benefits, enjoy the subsidy that the government will be extending to our small rice retailers,” he added.

According to Gatchalian, the DTI will finalize the parameters for the cash assistance, if it would be the ₱15,000 cash aid will be given across the board, or calibrated based on the inventory the retailer has.

Gatchalian said they expect the retailers to be able to dispense their rice stocks bought at a higher price within seven to 14 days.

The DTI will also require proof of purchase from the rice retailers as part of its considerations for their inclusion in the final list, Gatchalian said.

The subsidy will come from the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) of the Department of Social and Welfare (DSWD).

The social welfare secretary said the SLP has a ₱5.5-billion budget that is ready to be used to aid rice retailers with small inventory amid the price cap.

Should the price restriction stretch out and SLP funds be used up, Gatchalian said President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has authorized the DSWD to tap into other fund sources of the agency, such as the budget from its assistance to individuals in crisis situation.

The DSWD chief also told House Committee on Appropriations chairperson Rep. Elizaldy Co that they welcome any augmentation to the agency’s budget later on but assured that currently, the department has a “rein on the finances.”

House Speaker Martin Romualdez vowed to raise another ₱2 billion to augment the SLP budget, Gatchalian earlier said.

Malacañang mandated a price ceiling for regular milled rice at ₱41.00 per kilogram and for well-milled rice at ₱45.00 per kilo after it saw a surge in the commodity’s retail prices. It took effect on Tuesday.

Gatchalian said the ₱15,000 subsidy is “enough” as farmers will start their harvest in the following weeks that could stabilize market prices of the staple, as forecasted by the Department of Agriculture.