House hikes 2021 pandemic assistance fund by P6 billion

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) – October 25, 2020 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has increased by P6 billion the financial assistance fund for workers and poor families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the 2021 General Appropriations Bill (GAB).

The committee, a 14-member panel tasked to consolidate the amendments in the 2021 GAB, approved the increases in the proposed budgets of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) by P4 billion and P2 billion, respectively.

Specifically, it added P4 billion to DOLE’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Displaced/Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) program, increasing its appropriation from P9.9 billion to about P14 billion.

The committee said the TUPAD budget for 2021 is not sufficient to extend assistance to unemployed Filipinos, which as of July 2020 numbered about 4.6 million based on the Labor Force Survey. It pointed out that, if the beneficiaries are to be given P5,000 each, the P9.9-billion allocation could only serve 2 million workers or less than half of the displaced workers.

It also added P2 billion to the DSWD’s pandemic assistance program budget for the continuation of the social amelioration program (SAP) under the Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws. The lawmakers cited the need to provide financial assistance to poor families to compensate for the lack of SAP program in the 2021 GAB.

Based on the National Expenditure Program for the next fiscal year, P113.8 billion of the DSWD’s proposed P169-billion budget is allocated for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps, a conditional cash transfer that requires beneficiaries to comply with human development goals such as sending children to school, getting regular health check-ups and attending family development sessions, among others.

Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, head of the 14-member panel, revealed that they added P5.5 billion to the P2.5-billion proposed budget for COVID-19 vaccine purchase under the Department of Health (DOH).

These are among the institutional amendments worth P20 billion in the proposed national budget for 2021 approved by the chamber’s small committee tasked to consolidate the pre-approved amendments in the GAB prior to submission to the Senate and printing.

The amendments also included the addition of another P2 billion to DOH for facilities enhancement program, P2 billion to the Department of the Interior and Local Government to fund the purchase of police mobility assets, P2 billion to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for procurement of C-130 planes, P1.7 billion for the Department of Education to support internet connectivity of teachers.

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