Palace asks Congress, DBM for more funds for SAP

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THE Palace has asked both Congress and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to find an additional P51 billion that can be allocated to the social amelioration program (SAP).

In a statement released on Friday, Palace Spokesperson Harry L. Roque said that President Rodrigo R, Duterte is asking DBM Secretary Wendel E. Avisado “to determine how much funds from the 2020 National Budget will be realigned to augment the Administration’s social amelioration measures, pursuant to Republic Act No. 11469.”

R.A. No. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, stated that 18 million families from low income households will receive a cash subsidy worth P5,000 to P8,000 for two months under the SAP. Around P205 billion was released by the DBM to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last April for the initial 18 million households.

The law was enacted last March 25 to give Mr. Duterte special powers to realign national funds in order to allocate these for the government’s measures fighting the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. A prolonged lockdown in most regions in the country has been implemented to slow the pandemic, slowing down economic activity.

Earlier this month, Mr. Duterte said 5 million more people will be made beneficiaries under the SAP, bringing the tally of those who will be receiving the cash assistance to 23 million. In a radio interview with DZMM on Friday, Mr. Roque said that more than P257 billion will be needed to fund all the beneficiaries.

Kakailanganin po natin talaga ay P257.7 billion. So, clearly po, we are P51 billion short kung lahat po sila ay bigyan ng ayuda (We really would need P257.7 billion. So clearly we are P51 billion short if we were to give them all aid),” Mr. Roque said.

The second tranche of the SAP was scheduled to be given this month. Mr. Roque said that Mr. Duterte “will ask the assistance of Congress in the finding of additional funding for the second tranche of the Social Amelioration Program to complete the rollout of aid to poor and low-income families.”

Many regions of the country will be placed under a less stringent general community quarantine (GCQ) starting May 16, this after the whole Luzon island and some other regions across the country were placed under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in March. Laguna, Metro Manila, and Cebu City will be under a modified ECQ from May 16 to 31.

The Palace earlier this week said beneficiaries in areas under GCQ — despite being previously on ECQ — will not be receiving cash aid under the SAP anymore. — Gillian M. Cortez