Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

President of the Republic of the Philippines 2001 - 2010

Providing Direct Assistance for Community Empowerment

Perspective

The provision of direct assistance to the poor, vulnerable and disavantaged members of Philippine society as a means not just of alleviating their poverty but of empowering them aa a people, to enable them to participate in the making of decisions affecting their lives, is a major part of the Government's development agenda. Assistance given directly has been shown by experrience, especially in Latin America, to be superior to assistance given indirectly through bureaucratic programs, in that the assistance reaches the appropriate individuals directly instead of leaking out through the usual bureaucratic interstices or else goes to those for whom it is not intended. It can be reported proudly that this direct assistance program of the Government achieved much success

Providing Direct Assistance

The direct assistance program encompassed a number of special projects including the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the Kapit Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan, the Self-Employment Assistance – Kaunlaran (SEA-K), the Food for School Program, the Katas ng VAT: Pantawid Kureyente Project, and the Katas ng VAT: Tulong kay Lolo at Lola Project.

A. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps)

Commonly called the 4Ps, this is a conditional cash transfer program for reducing poverty specifically focused on promoting primary education, gender equality and maternal health.

The beneficiaries are chosen through the National Household Targeting System (NHTS) based on the 2003 Small Area Estimates of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) that selects the poorest out of the extremely poor households using a Proxy-Means test. The direct assistance package includes a P500/month or P6,000/year health and nutrition grant, which may also come with a P300/month or P3,000/year education grant, if there are school-aged children in the household. Overall, a household with three qualified children may receive a subsidy of P1,400/month or P15,000/year. The cash grants are released every 3 months through an issued Landbank cash card.

There are safeguards to ensure that recipient families enjoy the fullest benefits available to them under the program.

The 4Ps started in 2007, initially covering four municipalities in Mindanao and two in Metro Manila. By 2009, it had covered 17 regions, 80 provinces, 664 municipalities, and 60 cities. The beneficiary households had increased from an initial 320,000 households to one million by 2009.

B. Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan

Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan – Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services: Kapangyarihan at Kaunlaran sa Barangay or KALAHI-CIDSS for short is another poverty alleviation program via direct assistance, with the financial backing of the World Bank. The underlying principle of this initiative is that poor individuals should be the ones to make decisions regarding funding allocations for social development within their community, because they are after all the direct beneficiaries of these allocations. Under this program, poor communities are empowered by assuming responsibility for the managing, monitoring and supervising of relevant community projects.

Funds are released by the Government directly to local community members' KALAHI-CIDSS bank accounts. Due to the built-in transparency mechanisms of the program, KALAHI-CIDSS holds a near-nil record in graft and corruption. Project issues are addressed promptly and in an expeditious manner through a tailor-made complaints and grievance system.

Types of sub-projects that are or can be included in the KALAHI-CIDSS program:

  • Basic social services: community water systems, school buildings, day care centers, barangay health stations, electrification, and tribal housing/shelter.
  • Basic access infrastructure: access roads, small bridges/footbridges and access trails.
  • Community production, economic support and common services facilities: community economic enterprise training, equipment and materials support projects, pre- and post-harvestand multi-purpose facilities, small scale irrigation and community transport.
  • Environmental protection and conservation: drainage, river/flood control, sea wall, soil protection (rip rap), artificial coral reef sanctuaries and sanitation facilities.
  • Skills training and capability building projects: community libraries, etc.
  • Miscellaneous: light houses and eco-tourism projects

Initiated in 2003, KALAHI-CIDSS by 2009 had covered 4,229 barangays in 184 municipalities of 42 provinces and 12 regions. . This 2010, the program is set to include an additional 16 municipalities to raise the number of KALAHI-CIDSS-assisted municipalities nationwide to 200.

C. Self-Employment Assistance – Kaunlaran

Simply called SEA-K, this is a capability-building program designed to enhance the socio-economic skills of poor families. With the help of LGUs, the SEA-K program fosters an environment where self-sufficient and resilient families can effectively cope with the changing times.

The SEA-K Program provides capital assistance and training in entrepreneurial skills to poor families starting their own small businesses. Features and services offered to beneficiaries are as follows:

  • Social preparation: involving the provision of self-enhancement, volunteerism, leadership and business management skills training to build beneficiaries' capabilities and confidence.
  • Formation of groups and associations: involving the organization of a maximum of 30 members into self-managed community-based micro-credit organizations called SEA-Kaunlaran Associations (SKAs) as conduits of various economic services.
  • Capital seed fund: involving the capacity of each SKA to avail of capital seed money amounting to P5,000 per member or a maximum of P150,000 for 30 members of a SKA, in order to start or sustain a small business. The seed money is non-collateral and non-interest and payable weekly for a period of 1-24 months. SKAs can further unite and form Level II Kabayan associations in order to be eligible for borrowing as much as P1.05 million.
  • Savings mobilization: involving the encouragement of SKA members to save from their earnings so they can extend assistance to their members. These savings can also serve as the members' source of additional capital for their business ventures.
  • Technical assistance: involving DSWD and partner agencies' provision of assistance and education for SKAs, in order to enrich SKA members' organizational and entrepreneurial knowledge and skills to effectively manage their association and micro enterprise projects.
  • Access to other social services: involving the orientation of SKAs on how to access other social services provided by NGOs, POs, business groups and other government agencies.

From 2001 to May 2009, more than P1 billion in seed funds was provided under the SEA-K program.

D. Food for School Program

Similar to the 4Ps although much narrower in scope, this program covered, for school years 2007-2008 and2008-2009, the top 20 most food-poor provinces and the top 100 poorest municipalities of the nation, as well as depressed areas in the NCR. The program provided food subsidies to poor families with children in day care centers, preschools and public schools (Grade 1 level) in the form of one kilo of rice for each child per day.

The Food for School Program was immediately effective. It was both a hunger mitigating measure and a school attendance improvement measure. In the areas covered, from 2007 to 2008, malnutrition dropped from 21 percent to 17 percent and school attendance increased from 90 percent to 95 percent.

E. Katas ng VAT: Pantawid Kuryente Project

The Pantawid Kuryente Project was one of two direct assistance programs funded through revenues generated from collections of the expanded value added tax (EVAT). This project was implemented in 2008 to combat the spiraling cost of electricity, fuel and other basic commodities (particularly rice and oil) It consisted of a one-time cash subsidy of P500.000 to lifeline consumers with an electric consumption of 100 kilowatt hours or below for the billing period ending in May 2008.

Service providers MERALCO, the National Electrification Administration (NEA) and the Philippine Electric Plant Owners Association (PEPOA) all cooperated . MERALCO allowed on-site payment and direct cash distribution through their franchise areas (by the Land Bank of the Philippines); NEA allowed the issuance of credit memos by electric cooperatives; and PEPOA covered areas subject to private investors-owned utilities. Overall, the Government released more than P3.42 billion for this project, benefiting a total of 6,305,475 electricity consumer households.

F. Katas ng VAT: Tulong Para Kay Lolo at Lola Project

Qualified beneficiaries of this project included citizens 70 years old and above, dependent or belonging to a family whose income was within or below the poverty threshold of the area they were residing in, and not covered by the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) or any private or government retirement program.

More than one million senior citizens availed of the benefits of this direct financial assistance project.

II. Improving Access to Rice Supplies

Improving the rice distribution program is critical to poverty alleviation since it is a way of insuring that this basic staple reaches the poorest households. To attain this end, the Government distributed the Family Access Cards (FACs) which entitled holders to access to food supplies in the government supply centers. As of April 2009, 165 Barangay Bagsakans (food depots) and 14,581 Tindahan Natin Outlets (TNOs) had been established nationwide as part of the Government's Hunger Mitigation Program. Through FACs, almost 15 million households now have access to these food supplies centers.

In 2008, the Government provided FACs to a total of 313,285 poor families (specifically, identified as households with a monthly income of P5,000 or less for a family of five) in the National Capital Region, designating them as prioritized customers and consumers. As such, they could purchase NFA rice at the low cost of P18.25 per kilogram, and at the same time operate, if they so wished, TNOs which sell affordable, quality rice and noodles in depressed communities.

The FAC project currently covers 17 cities and one municipality of Metro Manila.

Empowering the Communities

A. No Dole-Out Programs

The Government is fully aware that direct assistance programs can transform into dole-out programs, instilling a dependency syndrome among recipients. . This has not been the case with respect to the Gobernment's direct assistance program. Careful and meticuluous moments of conceptualization, cooperation and implementation in the implementing agencies, togetherr with the cooperation of participating agencies, saw to it that long-term objectives were not sacrificed. As immediate hunger mitigating effects were achieved, so were objectives of family consolidation attained. The provision not only of physical quantities of food or money but also of technical training in livelihood and family business operations raised the recipients' ability to initiate and manage viable small scale business enterprises in the longer term.

B. Community Bonding

The process of enabling the poor and the disadvantaged to take control over their lives is what is involved in community empowerment. Banding together in the process of receiving direct asistance is the first step towards making the recipients aware of their power to make decisions affecting themselves as a groiup. A further step is in becoming conscious of the similarity of their needs and concerns and their willingness to act on these needs and concerns. As imperceptible as they might seem, these are acts that lead to people's empowerment.

The Government is working to reach that day when government assistance will no longer be needed and communities, with their empowered residents, can stand, grow and develop by their own abilities and resources. The Government wholeheartedly agrees with that popular Chinese adage that asserts, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."