Local government units (LGUs) have the discretion to distribute either cash or in-kind assistance to low-income households residing in Metro Manila and nearby provinces placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
This developed after the assistance program signed by President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday night was “silent” on whether the aid will be in cash or in-kind, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a virtual presser.
“So we leave it to the local government units kung anong pinakamabilis [na paraan] para makarating po sa ating mga kababayan [ang ayuda] (So we leave it to the local government units to decide what is the fastest way to distribute the aid to our countrymen),” Roque said.
On Monday, Duterte approved the release of PHP23-billion emergency subsidy to around 22.9 million individuals in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.
Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal have been placed under ECQ, the most restrictive quarantine status, until April 4 to stop the upward trend of coronavirus disease 2019 cases in the country.
Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado said the emergency subsidy will be distributed to 11.2 million recipients from Metro Manila, 3 million from Bulacan, 3.4 million from Cavite, 2.7 million from Laguna, and 2.6 million from Rizal.
Each recipient can avail of assistance ranging from PHP1,000 to PHP4,000.
Avisado initially suggested to grant “in-kind” aid to beneficiaries.
The government, however, realized that the assistance should be given to poor families “in (the) soonest time possible,” Roque said.
“Kung ma-assure nila na mabilisan na in-kind, wala pong problema yun. Pero kung bibili pa at matatagalan, well, mas maganda pang i-cash na lang (If [LGUs] can assure that they can distribute the in-kind assistance, there’s no problem with that. But if it would take them a long time to provide the in-kind aid, it would be better to grant cash aid),” he said.
Roque said LGUs are expected to receive on Tuesday the necessary funding for the distribution of emergency subsidies within their respective localities.
He, however, acknowledged that local governments need some time to distribute the aid to low-income families affected by the ECQ implementation.
“What we can assure is today, maililipat na sa LGUs ‘yung pondo. Pero huwag naman nating asahan na today, completely ma-distribute ng LGUs. Hindi naman sila superman. Bigyan naman natin sila ng sapat na panahon (What we can assure is the funds will be transferred to LGUs today. But don’t expect that LGUs will be able to completely distribute it today. They are not superman. Let’s give them enough time),” Roque said.
He also warned local officials who would attempt to pocket the money earmarked for the new assistance program for poor households residing in ECQ zones.
He said erring local officials would face arrest, in the event Duterte learns that they stole the money that should have been granted to low-income households.
“Ang mensahe po ni Presidente, huwag na huwag niyong gagalawin ang ayuda sa panahon ng lockdown at pandemya (The President’s message is don’t try to steal the money earmarked for aid program, especially amid the implementation of lockdown and amid the pandemic),” Roque said.
Source: Philippines News Agency