The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) targets to finish the distribution of livelihood assistance to affected rice farmers by Thursday, September 14, in response to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s order to expedite the payout and in compliance with the election period spending ban. 

In a press briefing in Malacañang on Tuesday, DSWD Rex Gatchalian said they have applied for exemption with the Commission on Election from the ban.

“The President instructed us to finish this at the soonest possible time. He likes the idea of finishing it by the 14th, pero we told him na we would really want … we have applied for an exemption in the eventuality na may mga unforeseen circumstances that will cause some delay,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said they are targeting to finish the payout in all highly urbanized cities and regions before their imposed deadline, and would resume distribution to areas where beneficiaries failed to receive assistance. 

“We have to stop by the 15, so by September 14 ang goal natin is matapos natin at least all highly urbanized cities and regions. But we did file for exemption, and we are hopeful na makuha namin iyon so that kapag sakaling may spillover,” he said. 

“We promised that we will go back to areas na may mga hindi nakasipot na mga nasa list so that we can make sure na mabayaran, mabigyan din sila ng livelihood grant. That’s the basis of our appeal,” he added.

Gatchalian also assured there is enough funding under the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), a regular ongoing program of the agency, to cover for the cost of assistance for rice retailers across the country.

“Initially this year, ang appropriation ng programa na ito ay P6 billion, of which around 5.4-5.3 [billion pesos] ang natitira pa na unobligated sa kanyang pondo. That means kayang-kaya maabsorb yung programa na ito without new appropriation,” he said.

Under the SLP, beneficiaries identified by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and endorsed to the DSWD will receive seed capital of PhP15,000.

As of September 11, the DSWD has already disbursed around PhP7.5 million worth of assistance to a total of 502 beneficiaries from San Juan City, Caloocan City, Quezon City, Parañaque City, Navotas City, and Zamboanga del Sur. 

Gatchalian noted that legislators have also pledged to seek additional funding of PhP2 billion in case the DSWD fall short for this year’s budget on SLP.

“Nagpapasalamat rin kay Speaker (Martin) Romualdez. Nang inilunsad itong SLP para sa ating micro rice retailers, nagpahayag sila na maghahanap pa sila ng karagdagang pondo ng almost PhP2 billion kung sakaling kukulangin ang DSWD,” he said. | PND

Photo Courtesy to PCO

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