Leading vice-presidential candidate Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero wants more indigenous peoples (IPs) to be included in the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) pro-gram and other Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) social pro-tection programs to address chronic poverty, especially in remote rural areas.
In a campaign sortie in Ifugao, Escudero said the government must exhaust all means to break all barriers, physical and cultural, to provide services and opportunities to those in need.
“Marami sa ating mga kababayang katutubo ay hindi naaabot ng mga serbisyo ng gobyerno. Layunin namin ni Sen. Grace sa Gobyernong may Puso na siguruhin na pantay na makakakuha ng mga benepisyo ang mga mamamayan,” Escudero said.
Data from the United Nations Development Programme, the Philippines has an estimat-ed 14 to 17 million IPs—33 percent of them are in Cordillera Administrative Region, 61 percent in Mindanao and some groups in the Visayas.
“CCT and its companion programs were designed primarily for the poorest of the poor, which includes many IPs,” said Escudero. “The true test of social protection is to provide care to the invisible poor, including those who are concealed, literally, by forest cano-pies.”
The senator, who used to chair the Senate Committee on Finance, said funding for social protection and economic empowerment programs make up the bulk of the P110.48 bil-lion earmarked for the DSWD in 2016. About two-thirds of this, or P62.7 billion, will go to CCT or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
The 4Ps is the centerpiece development program of the government to fight poverty. It gives conditional cash grants to the poorest Filipinos to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children. Under program, a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 will be given to a family, provided children regularly attend school and the mother, if pregnant, seeks pre- and post-natal care.
Escudero, however, said that the 4Ps program should be expanded to include livelihood package for family-beneficiaries.
According to data from the DSWD, there were 4,353,597 families in the CCT program as of August 2015. Of these, 570,056 are indigenous households. This year, DSWD said enrollees will be 184,000 more than last year’s beneficiaries.
Escudero said he will ask the DSWD for data on the participation rate of IP groups on various DSWD programs, not just the CCT, and use these as guide on how to tailor-fit programs according to the IPs’ needs.
Beneficiaries of the 4Ps are selected through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), which identifies and locates poor households in every community. The problem is that the NHTS-PR being used today is based on 2003 data.
Escudero also urged eligible IPs to apply for benefits granted by the government to sen-ior citizens and children.
“The idea is to increase the IP content of all DSWD programs, which is key to reducing poverty in rural areas,” the senator said./Office of Senator Chiz Escudero