MANILA, Philippines - Budget Secretary Florencio Abad has advised Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to carefully review the government’s P1.645-trillion budget for next year.
Abad noted that Arroyo has complained about the lump sum allotment for school facilities and the huge allocation for the conditional cash transfer program.
“We decided to lump (the funding for) school buildings, chairs, desks, and teachers’ furniture together because what happened in the past was that when (funds for) school buildings were separated from (funds for) desks and chairs, there were schools built without desks and chairs,” Abad said.
Arroyo has also expressed doubts on the Aquino government’s ability to meet its target of reaching 2.3 million target beneficiaries of the conditional cash transfer program in 2011.
For next year, P21 billion is proposed for the cash incentive scheme which Arroyo started two years ago when she was president.
Arroyo said the nationwide organizational network for identifying and extending cash assistance to beneficiaries is not yet in place. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which will handle the program, will still have to recruit and train additional field personnel.
The conditional cash transfer program would provide a monthly cash incentive of P1,400 for12 months to poor households provided they send children to school and parents attend family development sessions.
Arroyo’s ally, Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Padilla, said the program would “perpetuate poverty and promote mendicancy.”
“Instead of giving cash, the government should create jobs for the poor and the jobless,” Padilla said.
Abad said the cash transfer program is necessary to achieve by 2015 the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) of reducing the drop out rates in schools and improving maternal health care.
“If we don’t accelerate, we may not be able to achieve our 2015 commitments,” he said.
Abad noted that failure to attain the MDGs would affect the country’s attractiveness to investors and international lending institutions.
“CCT is a whole package of programs that support one another. That is why you cannot look at CCT apart from basic education, public health investments, apart from immunization investments,” he said.
“If you require kids to go to school 85 percent of the time and mothers to have pre-natal check-up, you have to provide huge investments in education and health.”
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon pushed for an increase in allotment of cash transfers to families in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
He said the region should have a share of at least P2 billion in the cash transfer program because it is one of the most impoverished regions in the country.
DSWD regional secretary for ARMM Hadja Pombaen Kader said the cash transfer allotment for her division is not enough to cover the poor families in the region.
Jess Diaz, Philippine Star