SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
The House of Representatives on Tuesday terminated the period of debates on the proposed P137.55 billion budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for 2018, with much of it or P89.4 billion to be allotted for the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.
The proposed allocation for the government agency tasked to protect the social welfare rights of the Filipinos and promote social development is higher than the current budget of P128 billion.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez pointed out there is a very large increase in the budget for the implementation of the DSWD’s CCT program.
“The proposed 2018 budget for the implementation of the CCT program is P89.4 billion, a whopping 24 percent increase from its 2017 allocation,” he said.
Suarez inquired why there is a need for the DSWD to increase the budget for this program when the 2015 Commission on Audit (COA) report stated the total number of P1.2 billion or equivalent of 2.5 million accounts of CCT were not withdrawn from 30 to 1,190 days upon payout.
Rep. Oscar Garin Jr. (1st District, Iloilo), sponsor of the DSWD budget, clarified the increase of P9.9 billion in cash grants was mainly due to the restoration of health grant allocation to all 4.4 million beneficiary households amounting to about P4.3 billion.
He further said in 2017, health grants to all beneficiary households were good only until May 2017.
“In addition, the actual requirement for all 4.4 million beneficiary households is P28.5 billion whereas in 2017, it was only P23.4 billion. Thus, an additional P5.1 billion is required to fill the need in cash grant allocation for 2018,” Garin said.
He further explained that the CCT or 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) is designed primarily to promote the health and education programs of the government and not designed for poverty solution.
Suarez agreed the poverty rate incidence has decreased from 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.
He said despite the decrease in the poverty incidence rate, the government still needs to allocate a big amount to implement the CCT program.
He suggested that since the government is awash in cash, it should use the money that other agencies have failed to absorb or utilize for the implementation of the CCT program.
“Ngayon po, medyo liquid ang gobyerno, marami pong pera, ang sinasabi ko lang bakit hindi ninyo pag-iisipan nang mabuti kung kukuha pa tayo ng pera, kung kailangan dagdagan sapagkat maraming pera ang hindi na aabsorb ng ibang agency, mag transfer kayo dito kung naniniwala kayo sa programa,” Suarez said.
Garin cited the facts mentioned by the World Bank (WB) regarding the CCT program of the DSWD.
“According to them nine million children are currently benefiting from the program, 1.9 million of which are in high school. The program has also achieved almost universal enrolment for elementary age children of 4Ps households,” he said.
Garin said the study estimates the program has led to poverty reduction of 1.4 percentage points per year or 1.5 million less poor Filipinos.
“Some other facts mentioned by WB about health program is that there is a reduction in severe stunting among beneficiary children and lower maternal mortality in the past five years because more mothers deliver babies in health facilities,” he said.
Another fact mentioned by the WB is that there is a decrease in child labor days because they are already in school, seven days less a month for 4Ps households.
Garin said the data mentioned are based on the records of the agency.
Meanwhile, Suarez asked how the DSWD can rationalize the increase in its appropriation given the agency’s low absorptive capacity.
“Your average utilization rate is only 85.2 percent, meaning almost 15 percent of your real budget is not fully consumed,” Suarez said.
Garin said the agency is on the right track and it is moving the budget until the end of this year.
Suarez likewise made the observation that the proposed 2018 budget of the DSWD Office of the Secretary (OSEC) of P120 billion is 14.6 percent higher than its budget of previous years.
“How can this significant increase be reconciled with the fact that the OSEC’s average unused appropriation is P15 billion?” he asked.
Garin explained that the agency spending for the current year is on track except for some programs, most notably the sustainable livelihood program.
“The DSWD Executive Committee (ExCom) is on top of budget utilization monitoring, taking to heart the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) exhortation to utilize what has been appropriated,” he said. / MVIP