Metro Manila: About 23 million people in areas under lockdown will get Php1,000 ($20) “assistance”, Philippine officials said on Tuesday. The handout – which will come in cash or kind – was announced following a “Bubble Area” lockdown of up to 25 million people in Manila and four adjoining provinces on Monday.
The lockdown remains in place until April 4. The Philippines’ health ministry recorded more than 10,000 new coronavirus cases on Monday (March 29, 2021).
A government official said the handouts will be coursed through the local government units (LGUs). “It’s up to the LGUs. They can give it in cash or if they see the need to give it in kind, that’s up to them,” Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado told CNN Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier approved Avisado’s proposal to provide in-kind assistance to 22.9 million low-income residents of Metro Manila, Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal.
In a briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque clarified that the order Duterte had signed does not specify the form of assistance in the amelioration programme.
“What the President signed is already silent on whether it is in cash or in kind so that’s the call of the LGU. All the President wants is for the aid to reach the poor as soon as possible,” Roque said in Filipino.
Avisado said he has signed the Special Allotment Release Order and Notice of Cash Allocation for the ₱22.9 billion ($471.8 million) earmarked for the one-time assistance. The Bureau of the Treasury will next transfer the funds to concerned local government units.
The president wants the aid distributed within the first week of April. Under the scheme, every individual will receive assistance worth Php1,000 ($20.58), or up to ₱4,000 per family ($82).
If the family is composed of more than four members — the average in a household as determined by government agencies — Avisado explained the LGUs should decide on how to implement the programme, with the help of the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
He said the LGUs and the DSWD should reconcile their lists to ensure proper distribution of aid.
Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Martin Diño said it will only take Barangay officials two days to deliver the aid as soon as they receive it.
Previous distributions of cash aid were marked with delays and corruption allegations. Diño assured charges will again be filed for any irregularities.
“Have some self-respect,” Diño warned local officials. “This is only food. Don’t let it be the reason why you will be dismissed or suspended,” he said during the government’s “Laging Handa” (Always Ready) briefing.