Poverty worsens despite conditional cash transfer program

“This flagship program of Aquino is just a palliative measure. People don’t need dole-outs. What they really need is a permanent job.” – Gloria Arellano, president of Kadamay

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Marivic Quioga, 29 is a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps since 2010. However, the 4Ps program has failed to uplift Quioga and her family from poverty. Quioga said the P900 ($20) she usually gets from the said program did not improve her family’s living conditions.

“Nothing. We’re always short (on money),” Quioga said referring to the cash grant. Quioga is a B’laan from barangay Tuyan, Malapatan, Sarangani Province. She has four children with ages 12, 10, eight and five. Her husband is a farmer earning an average of P1,500 ($34) per month, while she is a housewife. According to Quioga, she became part of the program when the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted a survey in their place.

Babbylyn Hermosora, 31, a Sangrir (an ethnic group in General Santos) from Purok Maguindanao, Labangal, General Santos City, is also a beneficiary of the 4Ps. She has three children with ages, seven, four and an eleven-month-old baby. Her husband is a warehouseman in a grocery store who earns P4,000 ($93) a month. She is also a housewife.

The Conditional Cash Transfer program, which the government calls the Pantawid Pamilyang Pamilya Program (4Ps), is the centerpiece poverty alleviation program of President Benigno S. Aquino III. Under the cash transfer program, the government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, would distribute a maximum amount of $32.55 per month to poor families covered by the program.

The government believes that the lives of impoverished Filipino families would be improved through this program. Aquino, himself, calls the CCT program as “lifesaver” for poor families while World Bank president Robert Zoelick also backed the program saying that economic growth should benefit the poor. In a news article, Zoelick even described the government’s CCT program as a “prudent safety net for poor families, especially in these tough economic times.”

But for Quioga, nothing short of getting a land to till or a permanent job could help them rise up from poverty. Hermosora also said, “If the government would really want to help it should be enough and lwould benefit us in the ong term, like jobs for every Filipino.”

Conditions under 4Ps

To meet the government’s targets as contained in the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG), beneficiaries must fulfill the conditions that the program requires before they can receive their cash grant. This includes bringing their children to health centers for a monthly check up, sending them to school every day and for parents to attend seminars and meetings organized by the DSWD.

Despite this, a study conducted by the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) showed that, in July this year, 81 percent of beneficiary-respondents said they do not see long term solutions addressing poverty in the program. They added that they could not rely on the cash grant to sustain their daily living.

The CWR has, since the beginning of the 4Ps program, been monitoring its implementation and impact. Two cases provided to Bulatlat.com showed that the 4Ps did not make life easier for two beneficiary-respondents. The CWR conducted its survey through their networks in the regions.

According to Quioga they have to attend the seminar before the DSWD gives them their cash grants. Failure to attend the seminars may lead to the delisting of a beneficiary. Hermosora added, “Every Monday we have to attend meetings organized by FRAME (local organization affiliated with the DSWD). Every Friday is 4Ps session and FRAME also. If we fail to attend FRAME meetings three times we might get delisted.”

Another condition is to make sure that their children attend school at least 85 percent of classes. According to CWR, the beneficiaries are asked to get a certification from the school where their children go to. The said certification is also a requirement to get the cash grant.

Quioga’s children, for example, do not go to school regularly because their house is very far from the school, a three-hour-walk. Hermosora, on the other hand, did not receive her cash grant two months after she received P2,200 ($51). The DSWD told her it is because of the late processing of the school certification.

The program also requires that the cash grant would only be spent on the children’s school needs which, according to the Department of Education amounts to P300 ($6.9) per child. But Hermosora admitted that she sometimes uses the money to buy food. “We should only use the money for our children’s needs in school but we can’t avoid using it to buy food sometimes We are even told that we should show them the receipt,” she said.

Quioga and Hermosora both said that they could not get a regular check up. Quioga needs to walk three hours before she could reach the nearest health center in their place. Hermosora needs to shell out money for transportation. However, with the measly income of her husband, Hermosora chooses to spend the money for her children’s pocket money to school, which amounts to P20 ($.46) a day per one child.

According to Quioga and Hermosora, they also shell out money for transportation and to buy food when they go to the Landbank of the Philippines to withdraw the money because of the long queue.

“This flagship program of Aquino is just a palliative measure. People don’t need dole-outs. What they really need is a permanent job,” Gloria Arellano, president of Kadamay told Bulatlat.com in a brief interview.

Filipinos remain poor

Hermosora and Quioga are just two of the beneficiaries of the program. One might say that other beneficiaries might have been uplifted from poverty. However, a survey of Social Weather Stations shows that more than half of the population consider themselves poor despite Aquino’s Conditional Cash Transfer program.

According to urban poor group Kadamay, the situation would worsen if the Aquino administration will continue with the dole out program instead of providing long-term solutions.

“No matter how big the government’s allotment for the CCT is, if it would not create jobs and give the necessary increase to the measly wage of workers, the poor will remain poor,” Gloria Arellano, national secretary general of Kadamay, said. Last fiscal year, the Conditional Cash Transfer program had a budget of $483 million. It was increased to $906 million in the 2012 budget.

Yet, despite the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer, the SWS, in its recent survey, revealed that 52 percent of Filipinos, or about 10.4 million households, consider themselves as poor. It increased from only 49 percent or 9.8 million households in June this year.

Those who rated themselves poor in terms of food have also increased from 36 percent or 7.2 million households in June to 41 percent or 8.2 million in the recent survey. The self rated poverty rate in rural areas have increased by nine points or 62 percent while respondents in towns and cities stayed at 43 percent.

“The data qualifies the Philippines as one of the ‘food-poor’ or hungry nations in the world, despite the fact that we have an agricultural economy,” Arellano said.

Wasting public funds

Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the result of the SWS survey could be attributed to the wrath of Typhoon Pedring, where millions worth of agricultural crops were destroyed.

“How to further insulate the country from such shocks? Better planning, more realistic conditions, simpler methods of production,” Valte said.

But for Kadamay, with or without typhoons, the conditions of the toiling masses have been getting worse. They attributed the increasing poverty and hunger to the fact that Aquino’s poverty alleviation program has not created jobs for the poor and “it would not create jobs even after its five-year time table because of the neoliberal policies that keep the country from implementing national industrialization.”

Arellano said the Aquino administration is wasting public funds in its Conditional Cash Transfer program. “Of the $906 million fund for CCT in 2012, how many industries could be funded to operate and, consequently, create jobs for millions of Filipinos who are jobless?” she said.

“CCT will also bury the country into bigger debts to the World Bank, which the future generations will shoulder,” Arellano said, “The Aquino administration should instead focus its resources to job creation and increasing the wages of its workers.”

Decent jobs, agrarian reform

In times like this, the urban poor group warned that “no matter how high the popularity rating of the president is, it could not cover up the hungry stomachs of his people.”

Arellano said the president has not experienced “an incident of involuntary hunger in his lifetime to feel the situation of millions of poor Filipinos.” In the light of the recent commemoration of the Hacienda Luisita massacre, she added that Aquino have chosen to remain silent on the Supreme Court’s ruling that would, in the end, take away the land tilled by farm workers in the disputed lands.

“If every farmer has a decent parcel of land, with a harvest enough to feed his family, earn for a living and still have some savings for his family’s other needs, not a single family will go hungry and consider themselves as poor,” Arellano said, “The same goes to workers in the urban centers who should receive decent wages from their employers.”

Kadamay is demanding for a paradigm shift in the government’s poverty alleviation program. The group said that no lip service, such as the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms and the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, could calm the social unrest in the country because of the widespread poverty and hunger incidents.

“The crisis will worsen as the Aquino administration remains puppet to the dictates of the US by pursuing the failed neoliberal policies, which hinders the implementation of genuine agrarian reform and national industrialization programs,” Arellano said, “The government should offer real solutions so that the toiling masses could break free from the bondage of poverty.”

For Hermosora and Quioga, Conditional Cash Transfer program did not improve their lives. The conditions set by the DSWD to its beneficiaries that demand a big chunk of their time is only an added responsibility on top of the many things they have to do for their families. ()

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  1. CCT, CCT, CCT. It is truly only a band-aid solution to end poverty. And it only worsened. What will PENOY do with this.

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