MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte on Tuesday appealed for public understanding as his administration is left with no choice but to restrict the distribution of the second tranche of emergency subsidies under the social amelioration program (SAP).
In his taped public address, Duterte lamented that the limited budget for SAP implementation is stalling his plan to grant cash aid to all poor families affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) outbreak.
“The 18 million (indigent families), we’ll be ready and we are prioritizing the five million (families) na hindi nakatanggap (who have yet to receive [the cash aid]),” Duterte said in a speech delivered late Tuesday night. “Kayo na ho umintindi. Lahat naman tayo nagdudusa and hindi naman natin ‘to gusto (Please understand. We are all suffering and we do not want this).”
Each low-income household in the country will get a monthly emergency subsidy worth PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 for April and May to help them cope with the Covid-19 crisis, according to Republic Act (RA) 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.
The original number of SAP beneficiaries, as stated under RA 11469, is 18 million.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, however, has agreed with Duterte to extend the financial assistance to five million more poor families, bringing the total number of SAP recipients to 23 million.
Duterte said not all the 23 million indigent families could benefit from the implementation of the second phase of the SAP because government funds are already depleting.
“Ngayon, mag-tipid tayo. Gusto natin na bigyan lahat, ang problema ho wala tayong kita (We have to save money. We want to provide [cash aid to] all of them but the problem is we don’t have the money),” he said.
The President also noted that the government has limited funds because its tax collections fall short since he imposed strict quarantine rules last March to stop the further spread of Covid-19.
He explained that his government has failed to collect taxes because of the temporary stoppage of operations of some businesses amid the health crisis in the country.
“Alam naman ninyong walang nagbabayad ng buwis (You all know that no one is paying taxes) for all of the months that we were under a lockdown or a quarantine. So remember, we are short on tax collections),” Duterte said.
All SAP beneficiaries, including the additional five million low-income households, will get the first tranche of emergency subsidies.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año told Duterte that 97 percent of poor families have received the first wave of payouts.
On Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said only more than 18 million indigent families would get the second tranche of cash aid due to lack of funds for the SAP implementation.
Roque said those living in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) are the only ones qualified to get the second wave of financial assistance.
Cebu and Mandaue cities were put under ECQ, while Metro Manila and the provinces of Laguna, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, and Zambales were placed under MECQ from May 16 to 31. (ia/PNA)