Gov't yet to release cash aid for poor families, health workers as agencies finalize databases

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 31 2020 02:19 PM

Homeless people take a bath and wash clothes along TM Kalaw Avenue in Manila on March 30, 2020 amid the enhanced community quarantine being implemented all over Metro Manila to counter the spread of COVID-19. Certain sectors of the population remain at risk because of the poor social support in the country, exposing them to the risk of the virus. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News


MANILA - The executive department has yet to disburse the P5,000 to P8,000 cash assistances for indigent families affected by the coronavirus crisis as agencies are still finalizing databases, according to President Rodrigo Duterte's first report to Congress submitted on Tuesday.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III received the report required under the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" at around 12:40 a.m., nearly 2 hours after the weekly deadline.

"The Department of Finance will provide technical assistance to the Department of Social Welfare and Development in forming a consolidated database that will host COVID-19 social amelioration programs," the document read.

The database will be based on existing lists provided by local government units and "will be used to determine the subsidy amounts for each beneficiary," it said.

Last week, Congress passed a law granting special powers to the President to expedite the disbursement of cash aid for some 18 million poor families who may have lost their sources of income after Luzon and other parts of the country was placed on a month-long lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

Prior to the passage of the "Bayanihan" Act, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) began its "COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program" (DOLE-CAMP) to extend a P5,000 cash aid to qualified employees in the formal sector.

The Labor department also tapped displaced workers to disinfect their houses and vicinities in exchange for cash aid.

As of March 26, 8,641 workers received P5,000 from DOLE-CAMP. Another 51,293 displaced workers received cash amounting to their daily minimum wage in their respective regions, the President's first report to Congress noted.

The government disbursed some P95.43 million for the 2 programs under the Labor department, it said.

The 2 DOLE-initiated assistances are different from the cash aid guaranteed under the "Bayanihan" Act.

SPECIAL RISK ALLOWANCE FOR HEALTH WORKERS

A "special risk allowance" for all public health workers battling the COVID-19 has yet to be released as well. 

"The Department of Budget and Management is currently drafting an executive issuance to cover the COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance for all public health workers," according to the report.

The document did not mention if the government has already released P100,000 for each health worker infected with COVID-19, and another P1 million for each health worker who died from the disease since February 1, 2020.

Executive agencies earlier guaranteed that the public funds amounting to P200 billion was available to fund assistance programs during the health crisis.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who is a member of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee which oversees the implementation of the special powers given to the President, urged the executive department to quickly implement the laws created to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

"Naka-ready kami sa Kongreso... Ngayon ang backlog natin nasa implementation. Lagi tayong late e," Lacson said in a radio interview.

"Puwede ka naman mag-ingat pero mabilis. Pag ang ingat mo inabot ng buwan, di na ingat yan. Baka tamad ka na lang," he said.

The executive branch should be given some leeway in implementing the policy, the Senate President told reporters in a text message.

"Let's cut them some slack. It's just started," Sotto said.

As of March 30, at least 1,546 patients have contracted the virus in the Philippines. Of those infected, 78 died, 42 recovered, while the rest are still battling the disease.