Coverage for cash transfer program to expand next year

THE GOVERNMENT will expand the coverage of its conditional cash transfer program next year beyond the poorest provinces in the country and increase the number of beneficiaries.

Vilma B. Cabrera, DSWD assistant secretary and head of the program’s management bureau, said yesterday that, starting January next year, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) will reach out to poor households outside the 21 poorest provinces in the country and increase target beneficiaries to one million households from the 700,000 households this year.

Beyond the poorest provinces

"The President [Gloria M. Arroyo] a week ago ordered us to expand our coverage to a million households next year. Next year, we will also cover poor households out of the top 20 poorest provinces, so as to provide equity to the marginalized who are residing in affluent provinces," Ms. Cabrera said in a congressional oversight committee hearing yesterday in the House of Representatives.

Targeting

"We have already started our strategic targeting and identifying who the poor are and where they are located outside the poorest areas," she added.

"As of the moment, we are focusing on the top 20 [sic] poorest provinces, but we will evolve [sic] into that [expanded coverage] next year."

The 21 poorest provinces are: Masbate, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Zamboanga del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-tawi, Surigao del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Island, Apayao, Kalinga, Mountain Province, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Agusan del Sur, and Agusan del Norte.

Bigger budget needed

Ms. Cabrera said the planned program expansion would require a 40% increase from the current P10-billion budget allocation to service 700,000 households.

Total grants released as of June 30 amounted to P2.35 billion benefiting 363,338 households, she said.

The poorest households were chosen according to socioeconomic indicators like ownership of assets, type of housing units, level of educational attainment of the household head, as well as access to water and sanitation facilities.

Each household must have a maximum of three children aged 6- to 14-years old to be entitled to a monthly cash transfer of P300 a month.

An additional P500 a month will be allocated for the qualified family’s health expenses.

No dole-out

Ms. Cabrera said that the department will conduct an initial impact assessment of the program in January next year.

In that review, the department aims to determine if the cash transfers yielded expected results, particularly if living conditions of the covered households have improved, or if the program made some dependent on dole-outs.

"We will make an evaluation to find out if the program is contributing to the upliftment of their [poor] living conditions or if they are merely relying on the cash transfers to get by," Ms. Cabrera said.

"We will also assess if we need to extend the program or stop implementing it after said time allotment." — JFSV, Business World

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