Gov’t ready to roll out TRAIN safety net benefits

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THE GOVERNMENT has completed the implementation guidelines for P83.85 billion worth of social protection programs in 2019 to cushion the impact of the Tax Reform For Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Joint Memorandum Circular 2018-01 dated Aug. 31, prescribed the “general guidelines on the identification of qualified beneficiaries and the implementation arrangements of social welfare and benefits program stipulated under RA (Republic Act) 10963.”

It was signed by Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, and Social Welfare and Development Acting Secretary Virginia N. Orogo.

The programs include unconditional cash transfers (UCT), jeepney fuel vouchers, National Food Authority (NFA) rice subsidies, and free skills training for minimum wage earners and the unemployed.

The TRAIN law sets aside 30% of annual incremental revenue to various programs which are intended to offset the effects of higher taxes. For 2019, the pie is worth P83.85 billion, up 21.36%.

UCTs for 2019 total P41.42 billion, including a P300 per month cash grant, up from P200 this year. UCTs are intended to cover the poorest 10 million households.

UCTs will go to 4.4 million beneficiaries of the current Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), 3 million indigent senior citizens availing of the Social Pension Program, and the 2.6 million poorest households listed in the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Listahanan database which are not enrolled in the 4Ps program.

Fuel vouchers for jeepneys under the Pantawid Pasada Program are worth P3.86 billion, up from P977 million this year. Eligible franchise holders will receive at most P20,000 in 2019, from P5,000 this year.

The circular calls on the NFA to “prioritize selling its discounted rice to the 2.6 million households who are UCT beneficiaries and senior pensioners at the existing NFA selling price to end-consumers,” up to a limit of 20 kilos per month.

Funding for free skills training for minimum wage earners and the unemployed next year is P7 billion, against P6.9 billion this year.

The circular also instructs the Department of Health (DoH) “to prioritize the granting of health insurance premium subsidies” to beneficiaries of the social-mitigation measures.

It also said that the national ID system will “ensure the veracity of the identity of the beneficiaries who can avail of the social welfare and benefits programs.”

The TRAIN law raised taxes on fuel, tobacco, automobiles, minerals, documentary stamps, among others; imposed new levies on sugar-sweetened drinks and removed some value-added tax exemptions, and reduced personal income tax rates and estate and donors tax rates. — Elijah Joseph C. Tubayan