Gov’t giving P28B rice subsidy to poor

The removal of QR for rice imports by July 2017 is expected to decrease prices of well-milled rice by P7 and farm gate price by P5, according to NEDA.

By Leila Marie Rodriguez

The Duterte administration is allocating over P100 billion for the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P), Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol said yesterday.

Of the amount, Piñol said P28 billion would be in the form of rice subsidy for the poorest Filipinos numbering about 8 to 10 million, according to government data.

“The budget allotted for the 4P is much bigger now for 2019,” said Piñol in a radio interview, adding it’s best if poor families are to use the 4P budget for livelihood-generating activities.

“They should not be dependent solely on the government’s subsidy program,” he stressed.

Poor households identified in 4P, otherwise known as the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, have been receiving P200 a month.

For 2019 and 2020, the subsidy will be increased to P300, with an allotment of at least P38.5 billion in the national budget for the purpose each year.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) under Piñol has been pushing to transform the CCT program into a livelihood scheme in lieu of giving monthly dole-outs. The fund from the program can help boost productivity, according to DA.

In an earlier interview, Piñol had lamented many in the provinces have become lazy “because people are just waiting for their allowances from the government.”

“It is being implemented for many years now, but there are no changes. We even lost workforce in the agricultural sector because they no longer want to work,” he said.

The 4P covers all 17 regions of the Philippines, including 79 provinces, 143 cities and 1,484 municipalities.

The program is patterned after Latin American and African models seeking to give aid to the poorest of the poor to improve the health, nutrition and education of children.

Before the Cabinet meeting that lasted 10 hours, the DA chief said they would submit a formal proposal to turn 4P into a livelihood program.

From the tone of Piñol yesterday, it was apparent the 4P would stay in its original form, although there’s no stopping DA from using its own resources for livelihood-generating activities.

“As to the livelihood, it will be the choice of the beneficiary whether he wants vegetable growing or backyard poultry raising,” Piñol said.

He added by focusing on livelihood generation, the government would return “the dignity of our people instead of seeing them lining up in front of ATM (automatic teller machines) just to get their money.”

The 4P is being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

p: wjg