DSWD to choose who can buy cheap gov’t rice

Published by rudy Date posted on May 9, 2011

The government will stop offering low-priced rice and instead the Palace said it will require those seeking to buy subsidized rice to undergo processing through a so-called National Household Targeting System which is supposedly a scheme to ensure that only those who really need the staple will receive it.

President Aquino said the pro-poor food program will be used more effectively this way.

“(Filipinos who wish to avail themselves of) our rice subsidy will have to pass through the government’s National Household Targeting System,” President Aquino said, adding that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will be the lead agency to distribute the rice.

Last Friday, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman said DSWD’s “Rice for Work” program aims to benefit some 2 million small-scale farmers and fisherfolk nationwide starting May 15. She noted that the rice subsidy program will augment their incomes during the lean months following a harvest season and will be used to pay the fishermen and fisherfolk’s wages equivalent to 14 days work in a month.

Aquino announced the imple-mentation of the rice price subsidy program on Labor Day in which the government would allot P4.23 billion to allow small-scale farmers and fisherfolk to buy rice at subsidized prices. The subsidy will be given in exchange for services such as cleaning of communities and rivers to be determined by the DSWD.

“With the DSWD at the helm of distributing rice, only qualified Filipino households and individuals who really need the staple would be able to get it,” Aquino said. He likened the government’s rice subsidy program to another government subsidy program, such as the Pantawid Pasada Program for members of the transportation sector.

Meanwhile, rising fuel costs have adversely affected tricycle drivers and operators, prompting

the government to also extend them limited financial assistance under the “Pantawid Pasada Program.” “So just like the distribution of fuel under our Pantawid Pasada Program…those drivers with transportation franchises and tricycles who are pre-determined by their respective local government units (LGUs) would be given fuel subsidies,” the President said.

The Pantawid Pasada Program, also known as the Public Transport Assistance Program (PTAP), is contained in the President’s Executive Order No. 3 that will provide around 214, 596 jeepneys nationwide with smart cards pre-loaded with P1,050, an amount equivalent to a fuel assistance of P35 per day for one whole month.

Aquino also noted that the Republic of Indonesia is studying his fuel subsidy program “Pantawid Pasada Program” as a possible substitute for their state-funded subsidy on fuel prices.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras said in a press briefing at the Jakarta Convention Center that the Indonesian government is considering implementing a similar subsidy program that will be granted to specific sectors of the society aimed at helping their government to maximize the funds allocated every year.

“They are actually looking at our Pantawid Pasada system, instead of subsidizing everything they will now move into direct subsidies to specific sector, mainly the transport system,” Almendras said.

Indonesia spends $10 billion a year to subsidize the daily fuel requirements of its people. Due to the increasing demand, Almendras said that the Indonesian government expressed fears of a possible shortage of funds intended for the fuel assistance being extended to the people.

“Indonesia is an oil producing country…but they do not have enough for the present demand. The President of Indonesia is worried about how they are going to handle it and if they ran out of the money they set aside,” Almendras said.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang for his part said that Indonesia’s oil reserves have been depleting resulting to difficulties for their government to sustain the subsidy. The reduction in oil reserves has also affected their membership to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

He added that in recent years, the Indonesian government has been reducing financial support to the rising prices and demand of oil.

“They are moving away from almost a universal subsidy on fuel toward a more targeted subsidy like we have in the Philippines and this is an economy that is larger than ours in absolute terms,” Carandang noted.

In another development, Aquino bared a five-fold funding increase for rolling out of electric-powered tricycles “E-trike” in an effort to address not only the rising fuel prices but also the pollution problem in Metro Manila. He said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will be increasing financial support to the government’s E-trike program from an originally planned 20,000 units to 100,000 electric tricycles.

“This is another bit of good news, which is a testament to the international financial community’s confidence in the Philippine government,” the President said.

The President, together with the ADB, launched the E-trike pilot project in Mandaluyong City recently seeking to eventually replace most of the nation’s gasoline-fed tricycles with environment-friendly lithium-battery powered trikes aimed at cutting down on pollution and gasoline consumption.

The $500-million project would include the putting up of charging stations. Ten of the E-trikes can seat six to eight passengers, and come up with a six kilowatt-hour-lithium ion battery that can run a tricycle to a distance of 80 to 100 kilometers with a single charge.

The rest are equipped with a 3-kilowatt-hour battery that needs to be charged within only 20 minutes after 40 to 50 kilometers of travel.

Meanwhile, to address the Philippines’ perennial problems of informal settlers, Aquino also announced an ambitious plan which is being developed and may soon be implemented, alloting government land to an initial 560,000 families (a third of the more than 1.4-million informal settlers in the whole country) who are determined to be “squatting” in Metro Manila.

He said a unique “opportunity” had presented itself after an inventory led by the Departments of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had discovered that the1.5-million hectares of government land were readily available.

“We can give each of those 560,000 families two hectares of land provided they cultivate, develop and earn from the land they will live on,” the President said, adding that if they fail to stick to these conditions, the land will be taken from them.

He stressed, however, that since this plan was still being developed on the nitty-gritty details of who will receive the land, where it is located and when the plan will be implemented, is still being finalized. –Danessa O. Rivera, Daily Tribune

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