MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has realized that selling public properties would not be enough to boost the funding for the implementation of the social amelioration program (SAP), Malacañang said on Wednesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte had initially sought to sell one government asset to make sure that all the 23 million low-income households would receive the second tranche of cash aid.
The President, however, learned that the cost of the property was only about PHP20 billion, Roque said.
“That’s not even enough because we need even PHP50 billion more if we were to give first and second tranches to the five million additional beneficiaries,” he said in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel.
Under the national government’s SAP, beneficiaries are entitled to receive monthly emergency subsidies ranging from PHP5,000 to PHP8,000 for April and May.
The original number of SAP beneficiaries was 18 million, but it rose to 23 million after Duterte sought to give cash aid to five million more low-income families.
The 23 million poor families will receive the first tranche of emergency subsidies.
However, Malacañang earlier disclosed that only 18 million families are qualified to benefit from the implementation of the second phase of the SAP.
The Palace also said the government needs to ask Congress for a PHP50-billion supplemental budget if it wants to extend financial assistance to all the 23 million SAP beneficiaries.
Roque said Duterte was once “dead serious” about selling state-owned properties to augment the funding for the implementation of the second phase of the SAP.
The President, he said, was even ready to sell one government property to help more Filipino poor families cope with the impact of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
“He (Duterte) was very serious. When I talked to him the time when he said I want to give SAP to all the additional five million families, he mentioned one property (to sell). I’d rather not mention (it). But that’s why I knew he was dead serious about it,” Roque said.
He noted that Duterte later conceded that the government could not afford to grant the second wave of cash aid to all the low-income households.
“Maybe the President also realized that even if he were to sell that particular asset, it would not be enough to pay for the two tranches of 23 million families,” he said.
In a public address delivered Tuesday night, Duterte admitted that the depleting Covid-19 budget is stalling his plan to grant cash aid to all indigent families affected by the health crisis.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III earlier said there was no need to sell public properties to finance the Covid-19 response efforts of the government.
Dominguez ensured that the government is currently in a “very good financial position” to meet the financial requirements of the pandemic’s impact. (ia/PNA)