MANILA - Two senators on Tuesday expressed disappointment over the social welfare department's slow distribution of aid for poor families who lost their income due to the month-long work stoppage under lockdowns in Luzon and other parts of the country to curb the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
The DSWD has disbursed some P46 million worth of goods to indigent families 2 weeks after Luzon was placed under enhanced community quarantine but has yet to release cash aid to beneficiaries, according to President Rodrigo Duterte's first report to Congress.
"If the DSWD is really serious in providing immediate assistance to those who are affected by the lockdown, then bilisan naman ang ayuda (speed up the release of aid)," Sen. Nancy Binay said in a statement.
Nearly P50 million worth of goods is "not enough to even cover the 17.6 million Filipinos--or over 3 million families--who are living below the poverty threshold," the lawmaker said.
"Sadly, many families have not felt the help promised on television," she said.
The DSWD should also fasttrack the distribution of cash aid for the poor, Sen. Sonny Angara said in a separate statement.
Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, which gave the President additional powers to address the crisis, indigent families identified by local governments are entitled to receive a monthly stipend between P5,000 and P8,000 for 2 months.
This is under a P200-billion social amelioration program the President announced Monday.
"Paulit-ulit natin sinasabi na may pera para sa mga kababayan natin na naapektuhan ng COVID-19 pero base sa naririnig natin, hanggang ngayon ay marami pa din sa kanila ang wala pang natatanggap," Angara said.
(Government has repeatedly been saying there is money for those affected by COVID-19 but based on what we hear, many still haven't received aid.)
"Time is of the essence here so we must provide assistance to the poor ASAP. We are fighting against hunger and unrest," said Angara, who released the statement while in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.
The DSWD reportedly planned to spend a portion of the amount to procure goods for the poor, but Senate President Vicente Sotto III urged the agency to give the entire amount to beneficiaries in cash.
The DSWD has yet to disburse cash aid as the agency has yet to finalize its database for beneficiaries, according to the President's first coronavirus response report to Congress.