Former House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday urged the government to provide solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic based on reality, pointing out the need to confront worsening hunger and unemployment in the country.
Cayetano made the remarks at a press conference on August 11 before distributing P10,000 in cash aid each to 51 retail sector workers in Metro Manila as part of his Sampung Libong Pag-Asa COVID-19 financial assistance program.
He said self-rated hunger among Filipinos sat at 13.6 percent at the end of the second quarter of 2021, with 3.4 million families reporting that they experienced some form of hunger at least once between April and June.
Meanwhile, 3.76 million working-age Filipinos or 7.7 percent of the labor force are out of work, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s June 2021 labor force survey.
Another 6.4 million workers are underemployed, or have jobs that do not fit their qualifications or financial needs, representing 14.2 percent of all working-age Filipinos.
Cayetano also mentioned a recent disclosure by National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua that the Philippine economy stands to lose P150 billion per week during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila from August 6 to 20.
To avert further damage to the economy, the former House speaker underlined the urgency of distributing financial aid to families affected by the ECQ in the capital, citing the estimated P10 billion earmarked for cash assistance to families during the August lockdown.
“For a 10 billion delay sa pagbibigay ng ayuda, we will lose another 150 billion. Sana nasa isip po ng Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) y’un, at sana hindi na kailangan sigawan o murahin ng Presidente ang ilang members ng gabinete bago makapaghanap ng 10 bilyon, 20 bilyon, o y’ung Sampung Libong Pag-Asa, kung pupwede,” Cayetano said.
(For a 10 billion delay in giving cash aid, we will lose another 150 billion. I hope the IATF keeps that in mind, and I also hope the President would not need to shout or curse at some Cabinet members before we secure P10 billion, P20 billion, or enough funds for Sampung Libong Pag-Asa, if possible.)
The former House speaker cited the budget set aside for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which was pegged at P106.8 billion in the 2021 national budget, as a potential source of funds for cash aid during the ECQ.
“On average, 100 billion a year ang allotment sa 4Ps, 30 billion ang hindi nagagamit. Ang problema, yan lang y’ung mga naiiwanan before the pandemic. So you have two choices: i-increase mo y’ung 4Ps o may iba kang programa katulad ng 10k Ayuda na ibibigay mo lahat, or y’ung TUPAD gagawin mong accessible,” Cayetano said, referring to the labor department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers employment aid program.
(On average, the allotment for 4Ps is P100 billion a year, of which P30 billion ends up not being used. The problem is those are the unused funds before the pandemic. So you have two choices: increase funding for 4Ps, or you create a different program like 10K Ayuda that you will give to everyone, or you make TUPAD more accessible to displaced workers.)