PHILIPPINE STAR/ EDD GUMBAN

TWO HOUSE LEADERS have filed a bill that would seek to institutionalize an assistance program for members of marginalized sectors in crisis situations to provide immediate financial relief in times of emergencies.

On Friday, House Speaker Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco and Deputy Minority Leader Stella Luz A. Quimbo filed House Bill 10428 or the proposed Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) Act.

“Families in the lowest income decile earn approximately P9,416 a month. Hence, they lack adequate capacity to finance funeral expenses, hospital bills, among others should they face such unfortunate incidents,” Ms. Quimbo said in a statement.

The lawmakers said that the bill would also help remedy the country’s need for a national assistance program that was highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We need to institutionalize the program to make sure that it is always financially and administratively capable to respond to the needs of all Filipinos in crisis situations,” Mr. Velasco said.

The AICS is intended as immediate cash and material assistance to be given by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for individuals who have gone through an unexpected crisis such as illness or death of a family member.

The bill would mandate the DSWD to provide cash grants from P1,000 to P150,000 to marginalized Filipinos depending on the need and type of assistance given such as funds for burial, educational, or medical fees, among others.

The DSWD would also be required to regularly post timely updates on the program, including financial disclosures and information on beneficiaries, on the agency’s website.

The measure would also create an advisory council at regional and national levels to be headed by the DSWD that will be tasked to enhance the implementation of the program and address complaints involving the AICS program.

Independent monitoring of the program will be done through a committee with representatives from the private sector and civil society organizations, along with a Congressional Oversight Committee to conduct a review of the program.

Funding for the implementation of the proposed law would also be included in the General Appropriations Act of the year following the enactment of the measure.

Both authors of the measure said that the bill would help indigent people afford their basic needs while attending to emergency expenses. — Russell Louis C. Ku