Gov’t should check SAP’s gross failure as COVID cases rise – IBON

June 30, 2020

by IBON Media & Communications

Research group IBON said that the Duterte government should correct the huge shortfall of the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) especially amid a continuously increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Aside from getting the stingy first tranche of emergency subsidies, 9 million of the 18 million target recipients and 1.5 million more “wait-listed” beneficiaries will no longer get the second tranche. This is as the government limits distribution to residents in enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ (MECQ) areas. Yet, the country reaches a record of 36,438 cases as of June 29.

According to the recently expired Bayanihan law, the Philippine government was supposed to provide emergency subsidies to low-income families and vulnerable sectors whose jobs and incomes were disrupted by the lockdown. Support amounting to Php5,000-8,000, depending on regional minimum wage rates, was to be given to some 18 million poor households for two months.

The first month-tranche came in the duration of three months, making the already stingy aid even much delayed. The second month-tranche, on the other hand, according to an inter-agency joint memorandum, will be distributed now only to beneficiaries in the ECQ and MECQ areas. This reduces the original 17.7 million target beneficiaries to just 8.6 million households in the following areas: Central Luzon except Aurora, the National Capital Region (NCR), Calabarzon, Benguet, Pangasinan, Iloilo, Cebu province, Bacolod City, Davao City, Albay province, and Zamboanga City.

This leaves 9.1 million of the original target SAP beneficiaries affected by the three-month lockdown to make do with the meager first tranche, said IBON. This is even if economic activity cannot fully resume in now general community quarantine (GCQ) and modified GCQ areas.

Considering that Php98.3 billion has been distributed to 17.5 million households as of June 27, IBON computes that the first tranche averages out to Php5,617 per family. Without the second tranche supposedly for the second month of lockdown, the subsidy amounts to just Php53 per family or Php12 per person per day for the past 106 days since the COVID-19 lockdown started.

Even those who will receive the second tranche will still end up stretching a small amount over three months of lockdown, IBON said. Some Php6.79 billion in second tranche aid has already been distributed to 1.3 million recipients, or an average of Php5,047 per family. Combining both tranches, these 1.3 million families each got only a total of Php10,664. This amounts to Php101 per family or Php23 per family member for each of the 106 lockdown days.

IBON also noted that 5.28 million low-income households even continue to wait for the first tranche of SAP. This figure includes the remaining 278,206 beneficiaries out of the target 17.7 million according to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) data as of June 27. The rest are the families declared by the DSWD in mid-May as also eligible to receive aid but have not received any.

Yet, the government retracted and said that only 3.5 million of the wait-listed beneficiaries in MECQ and ECQ areas as of end-May are to get two tranches of emergency subsidy. This means that the remaining 1.5 million in GCQ and modified GCQ areas are getting only one tranche.

The country does not seem to be winning the war against COVID-19, but the government has remained indifferent to the impact of the pandemic on the millions of poor families, said IBON. The Duterte administration has continued penny-pinching even as people’s livelihoods and incomes are already irrecoverable and public health is at risk. People’s socioeconomic welfare along with an efficient health response are the urgent matters that the Duterte government should be focusing on instead of staying apathetic to the mounting health and economic crisis, IBON said.

This article was originally published on June 30, 2020. It was updated on July 1, 2020 to reflect corrections in the first and eighth paragraphs regarding the recipients of two tranches of emergency subsidies (3.5 million in ECQ and MECQ areas) and of only one tranche of emergency subsidies (1.5 million in GCQ/ MGCQ areas as of end-May) among wait-listed beneficiaries. This is according to a May 22, 2020 memorandum from the Office of the Executive Secretary to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).