P5-B aid anti-poor, says Church group
Caritas: Dole will only breed laziness
By Margaux Ortiz, Delfin Mallari Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Southern Luzon Bureau
First Posted 01:01:00 04/28/2008
MANILA, Philippines—The Arroyo administration’s program that gives a family living below the poverty line up to P1,400 a month will just make the poor dependent on the government and, thus, encourage them to be lazy, the social arm of the Archdiocese of Manila said Sunday.
“It is anti-poor, gives the poor no dignity, and only breeds dependency,” said Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila. He said teaching the poor to be dependent was not part of the long-term solution to the soaring cost of basic necessities, especially food.
Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral said on Saturday that the national government had allocated P5 billion this year to fund a P500 monthly stipend for each of the country’s poorest families to help them cope with the escalating prices of basic necessities.
Under the Ahon Pamilyang Pilipino (APP) program, a family will get an additional P300 for every child who logs at least 85 percent class attendance in a month. At most, three children per family could avail themselves of the stipend.
But due to budget constraints, the five-year APP program could cover only 300,000 families in the 20 poorest provinces, or 7 percent of the 4.7 million poor households in the country.
Pascual said the stipend for the poor could be considered a “dole-out.”
“The government, through this subsidy, only teaches the poor to be lazy and depend on the government or on other people for their daily needs,” he said in an interview over the Church-run Radio Veritas.
“The government should instead employ the poor as street sweepers, canal sanitizers and garbage collectors to teach them the value of work,” he said.
He said the government should also make the poor attend seminars on livelihood, skills training and micro-entrepreneurship, and require them to undergo family planning seminars and values formation.
Pascual said that the problem with expensive basic commodities, especially food, could be solved through partnerships between the government and other groups.
“The present administration should cooperate with non-government organizations, nonprofit organizations, cooperatives, micro-finance institutions, faith-based and church groups successful in livelihood, education, health and housing programs and social entrepreneurship,” the priest said.
He added: “If everyone works hand in hand, the crisis the country is going through would be resolved.”
Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III (LP-4th District, Quezon) described the APP as a “Band-aid” solution to the country’s poverty problem.
“The P500 monthly worth of stipend for the poorest families is just a Band-aid, short-term solution to the growing poverty and hunger problem,” Tañada said in a phone interview.
He added: “Yes, we may give the poorest of the poor P500. But what happens if there is no rice to buy or if the cost of rice is still beyond the reach of the intended beneficiaries? Five hundred pesos is not enough and will never be enough.”
The lawmaker urged the government to spend heavily on irrigation and agricultural support needs of the farmers in order to address the rice shortage and poverty in the rural areas.
A militant fishers’ group called the APP a “multibillion-peso publicity blitzkrieg” to boost the sagging image of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a statement, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the program also appeared to be a dress rehearsal for the 2010 national and local elections where funds would be funneled to the local government units allied with Malacañang.
“If the P5 billion is for poorest of the poor, how about the poorer and poor people. Are they not entitled to any government help? Is there such a thing as bracketing of the poor population of the country into poor, poorer and poorest?” Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap asked.
He said most of the 88.5 million Filipinos were suffering from the “chronic and intensifying economic crisis.”
Because of the sharp rise in the cost of living over the past months, more families are expected to cross below the poverty line.
Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that 4.7 million families—equivalent to 26.9 percent of the total number of Filipino families—were poor in 2006, marking an increase from 4 million poor families in 2003.
It also said poverty incidence—the proportion of those considered poor to the total number of families—was at 26.9 percent in 2006, compared with 24.4 percent three years earlier.
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