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DSWD Needs Media on 4P

DSWD Asst. Regional Director Evelyn Lontoc gives media briefing on 4P
DSWD Asst. Regional Director Evelyn Lontoc gives media briefing on 4P

Naga City (May 14, 2011) - Noting that P-Noy administration’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program draws mixed public reaction and lots of controversies, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-Bicol has decided to solicit the help of the local media to explain to the people what the government is up to.

Towards this end, DSWD-Bicol has sponsored a media briefing about the program at the Regent Hotel in Naga City. DSWD Assistant Regional Director Evelyn Lontoc, the key speaker in the said media briefing, feels that the agency's limitations in the area of information dissemination can be professionally filled up by the local media.

The CCT program has variable success worldwide. Its Philippine version is called Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (roughly translated means stopgap anti-poverty program for the Filipino family) or 4P.

The 4P started during the time of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and its continuation by the Aquino administration was vigorously opposed by militant groups who called it a “dole-out’ program and a ‘cheap PR gimmick of a regime in crisis’. The militants pushed for more subsidies for social services instead.

But the new president, eager to immediately make a dent in the country's poverty incidence, not only adopted the program but also targeted more beneficiaries and actively lobbied Congress for P21 billion 2011 budget, a sharp increase from the P5.5 billion Arroyo allocated for it in 2009.

4P now operates in 80 provinces covering 734 municipalities and 62 key cities. The government targeted  1 million households as beneficiaries in 2010.

As elsewhere in the world, CCT in the Philippines is a welfare program aimed at reducing poverty by giving cash to poor beneficiaries who must comply with certain conditions. Eligible households must be residents of the poorest municipalities based on 2003 Small Area Estimates (SAE) of the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), have economic condition is equal to or below the provincial poverty threshold, have children 14 years old or below and/or have a pregnant woman at the time of assessment.

A maximum of P1,400 per month cash grant is given to a qualified household on the conditions that parents send their children to school, mothers get regular prenatal or postnatal care, parents attend Family Development Sessions (FDS), and children aged 6-14 years old receive deworming pills twice a year.

With Asian Development Bank providing the loans for the program, the Land Bank of the Philippines takes care of disseminating the cash grants to the beneficiaries through cash cards, over-the-counter transactions or offsite payments. The money is entrusted to the most responsible person in the household, usually the mother.

While many see 4P as a magic bullet in the fight against poverty, the program will not run out of critics who see the program as an expensive and counter-productive “dole-out” mechanism that excessively siphons off funds that are better invested in social services.

President Aquino’s decision to reduce subsidies to Naitional Food Authority’s cheap rice program and fares to MRT and LRT, exacerbated by budgets cuts in health services and the State Universities and Colleges (SUCs), caused significant uproars among militants.

Complaints and queries pertaining to 4P may be sent by SMS to 09189122813.