Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano sounded the alarm on rising levels of need among many Filipino families amid higher-than-usual fuel and food prices, saying the government must do more to help people get through the next few months.
“Ang Pilipino kasi, matiisin at masayahin, so tingin ko nadadala ng saya ng kampanya, pero doon sa mga maliliit na caucus, dama mo y’ung hirap talaga e,” Cayetano told media in an interview.
(Filipinos are persevering and joyful, so I think they’ve been carried along by the campaign hype, but at small caucuses, you could feel people are living in difficult times.)
Cayetano pointed to the current Malacañang plan of providing a monthly P500 subsidy to the poorest 50 percent of Filipino households for three months – the details of which still have yet to be finalized by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) – and said the measure does not match the severity of the people’s needs.
“Pagka sobrang hirap ng kalagayan ng tao (When people are undergoing very difficult times), it’s never enough. I think the government is doing what it thinks it can, pero (but) it’s never enough. Meaning, if we can do more, why not do more,” Cayetano said.
To widen the safety net available to Filipinos amid rising fuel and food prices, the former Speaker has proposed that the government impose a five percent savings rate for all government agencies, and to have the budget savings be realigned towards funding more substantial economic relief programs.
“Sa ngayon, five percent lang gawin natin, magkakaroon na ng P250 billion ang gobyerno, pantulong po ito sa mga tao. With P250 billion, pati y’ung excise tax, pwede mo na tanggalin. So napakarami po nating pwedeng gawin,” Cayetano said.
(For now, if we just do five percent, the government can have P250 billion, this can be used to help the people. With P250 billion, we can even do away with the excise tax. So there’s so much we can do.)
The lawmaker, who is gunning for a Senate comeback in the May elections, said the government has a range of options for how to use the amount that would be cobbled together from a forced-savings directive on state agencies – including targeted relief for transport workers plus the suspension of excise taxes on fuel.
He also pointed out that the billions of pesos in savings that such a directive would produce can go towards funding a relief program like 10K Ayuda, which can provide P10,000 cash grants to 20 million Filipino households.
“Siguro naman sa P250 (billion), kapag ginastos mo y’ung kalahati, karamihan pa rin (ng pamilya) ay makakakuha ng P10,000. Ngayon, kung ayaw ng gobyerno na pare-parehong P10,000, maiintindihan ko rin yun, kung mas marami po dun sa mga tricycle at jeepney (drivers) kasi sila talaga yung tinamaan,” Cayetano said.
(I believe with P250 billion, even if you spend just half that amount, most households would still get P10,000. Now, if the government doesn’t want to give P10,000 to everyone, I’d understand if there would be more aid for tricycle and jeepney drivers because they’re the ones really hit hard.)
“Pero kung titignan mo, tanggalin mo na lang y’ung excise tax saka mo bigyan po ng lima hanggang sampung libo bawat isa, mas maginhawa din talaga,” he added.
(But if we look at it, just remove the excise tax and give every household five to ten thousand pesos, that would bring more relief to people.)