Research group IBON said that the Duterte administration’s proposed 2022 budget once again refuses to give the ayuda that millions of Filipinos need to alleviate the economic distress from lockdown-induced disruptions to livelihoods since March 2020. COVID-19-related emergency assistance programs have been discontinued. The group also said that there is some additional funding for existing social welfare programs but this falls far short of huge needs since the pandemic.
At the Development Budget Coordination Committee’s (DBCC) presentation to Congress at the opening of deliberations on the 2022 budget, economic planning secretary Karl Chua categorically said that “Giving of ayuda is not our solution to helping the people.” This is clearly reflected in the gross inattention to direct cash assistance for distressed families, IBON said.
Considering only those programs whose assistance is or could be emergency in character, the total budget for social welfare programs to help Filipinos distressed by the government’s lockdowns and economic collapse only amounts to Php68.1 billion in 2022. This excludes pre-existing recurring programs such as the 4Ps and pension for indigent seniors. The Php68.1 billion budget for 2022 is only Php2.5 billion more than in 2021, and less than one-fourth the Php286.3 billion spent in 2020.
IBON noted that the Php233.7 billion worth of COVID-19-related emergency assistance programs in 2020 are not repeated and have zero budgets in 2022. This was mostly accounted for by the Php206.7 billion social amelioration program (SAP) but also included smaller amounts for COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program (CAMP, estimated Php9.4 billion), Abot Kamay Ang Pagtulong (AKAP, estimated Php4.8 billion), Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF, Php3 billion), PUV service contracting (Php5.6 billion), assistance for tourism workers (Php3 billion), and a few others.
The budget increase in some pre-existing social welfare programs is meanwhile far from commensurate to the widespread loss of livelihoods and collapse in incomes for millions of Filipino families, said IBON.
Outside of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) which is a recurring cash assistance program to begin with, the largest ayuda budgets are for the Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged or Displaced Workers (TUPAD) and Social Protection and Welfare for OFWs programs. TUPAD’s budget increases 10.5% to Php21 billion in 2022 from this year and the OFW welfare program by 71.4% to Php12.1 billion.
The social welfare department’s Supplementary Feeding Program sees an 8.6% increase but just to Php4.2 billion, its Sustainable Livelihood Program a 13.7% increase but only to Php4.9 billion, and for Disaster Response and Management by 8.8% to only Php4.7 billion. IBON said that these marginal increases are however more than off-set by budget cuts elsewhere.
The program on Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances gets a hefty 23.5% budget cut and falls to Php18 billion in 2022. The budget for the Quick Response Fund is unchanged at just Php1.3 billion while that for Residential/Non-residential Care is reduced by Php51 million or -2.5% to only Php2 billion.
IBON added that other programs of the social welfare department that could have been used as mechanisms for providing cash and other emergency assistance only saw marginal increases. The 4Ps budget grows by just an additional Php8.9 billion or by 8.3% to Php115.7 billion in 2022. There is only Php59.8 million more in Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens or a negligible 0.3% increase to Php23.5 billion.
In contrast, many groups are demanding much more ayuda not just to alleviate the suffering of families but also to stimulate the economy and spur recovery. IBON for instance has long proposed Php540 billion in emergency cash subsidies, Php40.5 billion in cash-for-work programs, and Php101 billion in wage subsidies.
The Makabayan bloc’s SHIELD+ Bill proposes Php360 billion in emergency cash subsidies and Php90.2 billion for wage relief, paid pandemic leave, and transport operators. The Bayanihan 3 bill is the most conservative but still proposes Php108 billion in emergency cash subsidies, Php30 billion for cash-for-work programs, and Php52 billion in worker subsidies.
IBON urged lawmakers to take the long view in discussing ayuda in the 2022 budget. The current difficulties faced by tens of millions of Filipinos need urgent attention and should not have to wait for 2022 to be addressed. A vastly expanded Bayanihan 3 law needs to be passed immediately, said the group.
Ayuda in 2022 however is not just to compensate households for lost incomes due to the over-reliance on lockdowns, IBON said. Putting more money in the pockets of families is an effective way of increasing their purchasing power, boosting aggregate demand, and spurring more rapid economic recovery. The group reminded that the social welfare and multiplier effects of ayuda are far higher than of many import-intensive big-ticket infrastructure projects and spending on military modernization and hardware. ###
Erratum: The text and table were updated on September 3, 2021 to correct entries for 4Ps in 2019, AKAP, CAMP, TUPAD, SFP and SLP in 2020, and Protective Services in 2021. These did not affect the analysis but we still apologize for the errors.