The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has pledged the rollout of the P500 subsidy to poor families this month, in answer to call from House Ways and Means Chairman Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda to expedite its release, amid the surging inflation seen to hit harder the country’s low-income population.
DSWD Spokesperson Irene Dumlao said the ‘ayuda,’ for three months promised earlier by President Duterte, will be released by the end of June.
Dumlao said the memorandum circular among the concerned agencies on the subsidy release has already been signed, and some 12.4 million households in the country are expected to get the additional cash aid.
Salceda issued the call last week for the immediate rollout of the still undistributed subsidy, as the country’s inflation hit a record 5.4 percent in May from 4.9% in April based on reports from the Philippine Statistics Authority.
The trend is seen to persist as the Russia-Ukraine conflict remains unabated. “I am concerned that the poor are getting hit harder than everyone else in this. The inflation rate for the bottom 30% of households, year to date, has been 4.3%, whereas general inflation has been 3.5% year to date. This emphasizes the need to expedite subsidies still undistributed,” stressed Salceda, a noted economist.
The lawmaker pledged to follow up the release of the promised P500 monthly cash aid with relevant government agencies, which was favored in lieu of suspending the fuel excise taxes. Salceda said the immediate impact of inflation will have on the poorest households would be in nutrition.
He said “an augmentation by 500 kilocalories per day could cause as much as a 2-percentage-point increase in real gross domestic product per capita, enough to fund our housing gap.”
The government should “aggressively” implement the nationwide feeding program required by law as face-to-face classes resume to supplement food and nutrition intake among children from low-income households, he added.
Salceda said community-based food production efforts will also be critical in rural areas. “I have emphasize that inflation has been faster in 14% outside of NCR (National Capital Region) where price increases are affecting provinces.”
He suggested that the government also work with partners with large seasonal food surpluses to prevent a nutritional crisis among poor communities, adding that measures to subsidize sectors with second-round effects, such as public transport and agriculture, would also be vital.
“As the causes of price increases remain primarily external, we will have little choice but to adapt. Measures to subsidize sectors with second round effects, such as public transport and agriculture, will be vital. We must also produce more food at affordable prices,” he explained.
“President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s pick for Agriculture Secretary will be all-important as we deal with inflation in the coming months,” Salceda said. More than 180,000 public utility vehicle (PUV) drivers and operators have received their PHP6,500 fuel subsidy under the Pantawid Pasada program, as of June 1.