The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will start releasing rice subsidy amounting to P600 a month to Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries.
“We have already begun to release the rice subsidies to 4Ps members. We trust that the beneficiaries of the fund will use the money to buy rice for their families because this is the main purpose of the subsidy," Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said in a statement released on Wednesday.
"However, we are certain that in the coming weeks and months, we will be receiving reports that some beneficiaries use the subsidy for other purposes. Our social workers and the rest of the Department will implement appropriate measures to inform beneficiaries on the purpose of the cash grant,” she added.
The DSWD move comes on the heels of a directive by President Rodrigo Duterte for the DSWD to strengthen the delivery of social services, particularly rice subsidies, to the poorest sector.
Under the General Appropriations Act of 2017, the rice subsidy will be given to "registered, active, and compliant" 4Ps beneficiaries on a bi-monthly period – the same schedule as the education and health grants.
The P600 monthly rice subsidy, or P7,200 a year, is on top of the regular cash grants. The additional grant is part of the cash grant allocation of P72.115 million for 2017. Newly registered beneficiaries will also receive the additional rice subsidy aside from the regular monthly allotment.
Changes in the amount of the rice subsidies will be "subject to the succeeding annual appropriations," Taguiwalo said.
"We should also like it known that any payment-related concerns on the availment of the rice subsidy arising from circumstances outside our direct control will follow the established grievance redress procedure. After we have validated complaints, the affected beneficiaries will be entitled to retroactive payment," Taguiwalo said in statement released on Wednesday.
DSWD will regularly monitor and report the distribution of rice subsidy in order to maintain transparency and avoid risk of fund misuse. It added that a "payment status report, certification of unpaid households, and consolidated list of unpaid beneficiaries report" will be provided.
“I have also ordered that reports on the number of households receiving the rice subsidy be submitted to my office by our Field Offices and the Pantawid Pamilya National Program Management Office. Also, we will be monitoring reported cases of misuse of the rice subsidy—sanctions will be imposed when necessary following the established grievance procedure that allows for progressive disciplining," Taguiwalo said.
Taguiwalo reiterated that beneficiaries will be taught on the proper use of the subsidy.
"We want to underscore the importance of this subsidy and the responsibility of the beneficiaries to use it wisely. Millions of other impoverished Filipinos, who are not covered by 4Ps, also need to be given rice subsidies, but sadly we cannot provide for them now," Taguiwalo said.
"We hope in the future that our anti-poverty programs and food subsidies will be more inclusive and cover more poor Filipinos,” she added