P648B worth of social programs, services to cushion inflation

2023 February 28

HOUSE BRIEFING. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman attends the House Committee on Appropriations hearing on the country’s financial status on Tuesday (Feb. 28, 2023). She said the PHP646.06 billion budget for some of the national government’s major social programs this year would help temper inflation.

MANILA – The PHP646.06 billion allocated for some of the national government’s major social programs and services this year would help temper inflation, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman said on Tuesday.

Pangandaman made this remark before members of the House Committee on Appropriations in a meeting meant to tackle the immediate impact of the rising inflation on the national programs and projects of the government.

In her opening statement, she said the PHP5.268-trillion national budget this year provides near-term and long-term interventions to alleviate the impacts of inflation, especially on the vulnerable sectors.

“As a total, for the Fiscal Year 2023 National Budget, the total funding for major social programs is PHP646.06 billion. I will just enumerate the major programs,” Pangandaman said.

To provide financial assistance or fuel vouchers to workers in the transportation and agriculture sectors affected by high oil prices, she said the DBM has allocated PHP3 billion to fund the fuel subsidy program.

Pangandaman said the DBM also allocated PHP1.29 billion for the Libreng Sakay, which provides free bus rides for the public, including the bus commuters along EDSA.

She said a PHP1 billion fuel assistance for farmers and fisherfolk is likewise expected to benefit more than 312,000 farmers and fisherfolk with PHP3,000 per beneficiary to ensure unimpeded agricultural production and fishing operations.

To ensure that 4.4 million indigent households will continue to receive conditional cash grants from the government, she said the DBM allocated PHP102.61 billion for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

She said there is also PHP25.30 billion for their social pension of 4.09 million indigent senior citizens and another PHP36.82 billion for Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances to assist 3 million individuals with urgent needs due to crises.

In the area of agriculture, Pangandaman said the DBM has allocated PHP186.4 billion to modernize the country’s agriculture sector to increase productivity and profitability.

She said a total of PHP10 billion was intended for the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) which provides grants, credits, machinery and equipment, and technological support for rice farmers to improve their productivity.

To boost the production of local agricultural commodities through the government’s national programs under the Department of Agriculture, the DBM chief said the following was allocated: PHP30.30 billion for the agency’s rice program, corn program with PHP5.02 billion, PHP4.50 billion for the livestock program, another PHP1.80 billion for the high-value crops program, and another PHP6.16 billion for the fisheries program.

Pangandaman said a total of PHP14.98 billion was allocated for farm-to-market and farm-to-mill roads and bridges to reduce the transport cost of produce.

A total of PHP19.4 billion was allocated for the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD) for 2.1 million beneficiaries, she said.

The government internship program received PHP708 million for 12,000 beneficiaries and the DOLE Integrated Livelihood Program was given PHP2.6 billion with almost 80,000 beneficiaries, she added.

Targeted cash transfer program

Meanwhile, she said the government is also set to launch a Targeted Cash Transfer program to provide a two-month subsidy to poor households amidst the rising prices of commodities.

However, she said details of this will be announced by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. once finalized.

“Together, these programs will result in food security and lower food prices that will help temper inflation,” she added.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier said it expected inflation to ease this year, but consumer price growth could remain on its trajectory towards the end of 2023 due to global headwinds.

In its February forecast, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said inflation is expected to remain elevated this month and settle between 8.5 percent and 9.3 percent.

Funding for OFWs

During the panel meeting, OFW Party-list Rep. Marissa “Del Mar” Magsino urged the Development Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC) to prioritize government funding for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including the budget for the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Magsino said OFWs are considered the “biggest source” of national income and keep the country’s economy afloat amid various global challenges.

In 2021, she said the OFWs remitted USD34.88 billion, accounting for 8.9 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) for that year.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno said the OFWs’ remittances increased by 3.6 percent in 2022.

“Data shows the economic importance of our OFWs as the sector is considered as one of the biggest sources of national income in the Philippines. In return, we must accord them the protection and care they deserve by channeling our budget into the socio-economic well-being of our OFWs,” Magsino said

For his part, National Economic Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balicasan said the country’s “economy would be in a worse situation if not for OFW remittances.”

“Even our economic experts are in agreement that OFW remittances save the economy from going down the drain, thus as we discuss our priorities for the following fiscal year, let us prioritize the budget for the DMW, DFA, and OWWA so they may reciprocate the favor we got from our OFWS,” Magsino said.

Azer Parrocha