During the ongoing bicameral conference committee meetings on the 2023 national budget, Senator Sonny Angara assured that the Senate will work for the continued grant of “ayuda” or support to the sectors that are still feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the ayuda that was provided during the height of the pandemic, which involved the distribution of cash dole outs to a significant portion of the population, Angara said what will be provided under the proposed 2023 budget are targeted assistance to specific sectors.
“Ang hangarin natin ay mabigyan ng targeted ayuda para sa ilang sektor tulad ng ating mga healthcare workers, magsasaka, mangingisda, mga operator at drayber ng public utility vehicles, sa ating mga senior citizens, mga nawalan ng trabaho at pati na din ang pinakamahihirap nating mga kababayan,” said Angara, who heads the Senate panel to the bicam meetings as Chairman of the Committee on Finance.
Just like what the President’s economic managers have noted, Angara said the grant of cash dole outs similar to the period of lockdowns is unsustainable considering how the government is strapped for cash at this time due to the decline in revenue collections.
Under the proposed P5.268 trillion national budget for 2023, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps administered by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will continue as one of the successful programs of the government in addressing poverty.
Another program under the DSWD, the Protective Services for Individuals and Families in Difficult Circumstances was provided with additional funding by the Senate.
The Sustainable Livelihood Program of the DSWD that has been providing invaluable assistance to poor, vulnerable and marginalized communities through tech-voc and life skills training among others.
A range of interventions to individuals, families and communities in crisis or difficulty situations such as natural calamities are included in this program. Among these is the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation.
Angara said the Social Pension for Indigent Senior Citizens, including the 100 percent increase that was recently granted under Republic Act 11916, will be funded next year.
From P500 per month, indigent senior citizens who have no pension or any financial support from relatives will now receive P1,000 under the new law, which was co-authored by Angara.
Healthcare workers will continue to receive benefits and allowances similar to what they have been getting under the Bayanihan laws and after that by virtue of the country still being under a state of calamity.
Funding for the COVID-19 compensation package for healthcare workers will also continue next year because “our health frontliners remain at high risk of contracting the new strains of COVID-19 and other diseases while providing care for our loved ones.”
Significant funding was provided for the National Health Insurance Program to ensure the full implementation of the Universal Health Care law.
The Senate also increased funding for the Medical Assistance to Indigent and Financially-Incapacitated Patients.
“Siniguro natin na lahat ng Pilipino, ano man ang kanilang estado sa buhay, ay mabibigyan ng karampatang serbisyong medikal tuwing sila ay may sakit. Hindi dapat maging dahilan ang kahirapan para hindi makapagpa konsulta sa doktor,” Angara said.
Fuel subsidies will also continue next year for the PUV operators and drivers, including those who belong in the ride-hailing industry.
For the farmers and fisherfolk, the fuel assistance program of the Department of Agriculture will still be funded in 2023.
“The fuel subsidies will help the members of the transport and agriculture sectors in coping with the rising cost of gasoline and diesel and help ensure that they will continue operating for the benefit of the public,” Angara said.
For education, Angara took note of how several programs aimed at providing assistance to poor but deserving students were funded under the 2023 General Appropriations Bill.
These are the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Program; Senior High School Voucher Program; Education Service Contracting for Junior High School; Student Financial Assistance Programs; Joint Delivery Voucher for Public Senior High School students and Tech-Voc Track students; and the Private Education Student Financial Assistance Program.
As for the labor sector, Angara said the Department of Labor and Employment’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers or TUPAD will continue as an effective program to help individuals laid off from work or who have difficulty in finding employment.