THE Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved on Monday a $200-million loan to support the government’s cash-transfer program targeted at poor families.

In a statement, the bank said the $200-million loan marked the second additional facility in the Social Protection Support Project, which supports the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The loan will help finance the $726 million needed to extend emergency cash handouts to some 4.3 million 4Ps families included in the government’s Social Amelioration Program.

ADB Vice-President Ahmed M. Saeed said the loan will help protect the gains made in reducing poverty in the country.

“This global pandemic, of a kind not seen in the last century, has disrupted the livelihoods of millions of Filipinos and could set back the very substantial gains the country has made in reducing poverty in recent years,” Mr. Saeed was quoted as saying.

“The new loan supports the government’s emergency subsidy program, which was designed to help vulnerable households get through this very difficult period and avoid falling into poverty,” he added.

The Philippine poverty rate declined to 16.6% in 2018 from 23.3% in 2015, the equivalent to 5.9 million Filipinos exiting the poverty category. The government targets to bring this down further to 14% by 2022.

ADB said it is also preparing an Expanded Social Assistance Project to further support the 4Ps over the medium term.

Since 2010, the bank has been providing support for the 4Ps, a conditional cash transfer program whose beneficiaries are required to keep children in school and submit to periodic health checks, conditions which are deemed necessary to help lift them out of poverty.

The ADB approved a $1.5-billion loan for the Philippines on April 23 to support programs to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak.

The ADB has also extended a total of $8 million worth of grants to the Philippines to provide food packages to poor families and help set up a new laboratory that will expand COVID-19 testing capacity by 3,000 tests a day.

Earlier, the World Bank approved a $100-million loan to also support the government’s emergency measures and the $500-million Third Risk Management Development Policy Loan to boost the country’s capacity to respond to natural disasters.

The government is asking the World Bank for another $500-million Philippines Emergency COVID-19 Response Development Policy Loan. The bank’s Board is scheduled to act on the proposal on May 20.

The Department of Finance has said it hopes to tap a total of $5.7 billion in financial assistance from multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and ADB. — Beatrice M. Laforga