House Deputy Speaker and Antique lone Rep. Loren Legarda has sought more funding for government agencies implementing social amelioration and small business wage subsidy programs as she expressed fear that more than five million Filipinos would be pushed into coronavirus-induced poverty. 

Congresswoman Loren Legarda 0829 1024x682 - Legarda seeks hike in funding for gov’t agencies implementing social amelioration, small business wage subsidy programs
Deputy Speaker and Antique Rep. Loren Legarda (Congresswoman Loren Legarda Official Facebook Page / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Citing a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) released in August this year, she expressed concern that with just a 10 percent decline in incomes, up to 5.5 million Filipinos would be pushed into poverty.

According to the PIDS report, the pandemic is causing income dislocations larger than that. The report cited the need for the government to continuously implement  amelioration initiatives and wage subsidy programs for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs)  to reduce the number of  projected 5.5 million Filipinos who will fall into poverty  to 1.5 million.

 “The proposed 2021 budget must therefore substantially increase the provisions for programs like these in the budgets of the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development), DA (Department of Agriculture), DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), DTI (Department of Trade and Industry), and other concerned agencies, to support our Filipino families and prevent them from falling below the poverty line,” Legarda said, as the House plenary continues to deliberate on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021 

She batted  “for more equalization of the budgets across departments in order to improve the welfare and capability of the Filipino people to cope with the challenges due to the pandemic and climate crisis.”

Legarda expressed serious concern over the Philippines’ 0.52 rating in the World Bank’s Human Capital Index 2020 Update which concluded that “children born in the country today will fail to achieve almost half their potential.” 

She also noted the  Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing more than 7 million Filipino households have experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months.

The survey, which was conducted from September 17 to 20 among 1,249 respondents, showed that an estimated 7.6 million households experienced involuntary hunger or hunger due to lack of food to eat. 

 “These reports show us that we need to stack the odds in favor of survival and human development. If we aim to use the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program to lift people out of poverty and reduce the incidence of hunger, the connections need to be made clear and certain. Otherwise, we are not putting our money where our mouths are,” Legarda said. 

She called on her House colleagues to take “a broader and more conservative look that assumes the worst and hopes for the best rather than make line item realignments.”

 “The discrepancies are in the billions, with the DOH budget being reduced by P50 billion, while the DPWH gets a fresh P85 billion on top of its previous budget, which was already 25 percent higher than 2019. I believe though that infrastructure development creates job opportunities and must trickle down to the poorest. No less than an overhaul and a better spread among the agencies to ensure sufficient funding for human capital will work,” she said.

Legarda also cited the need to increase funding for the implementation of climate adaptation projects and programs by government agencies to empower local governments and communities in managing climate risks and hazards.

Citing the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) Flagship report, she said climate change could push more than 100 million people within developing countries below the poverty line by 2030.

“It is not enough that we plan just to recover from this pandemic. We must acknowledge that even when this pandemic is all over, we still have a climate crisis to deal with. The President himself said that our response to the climate crisis should be just as urgent. Let’s invest in where it truly matters so our development gains won’t be wasted come another typhoon or drought. Let’s strive for a better normal by enabling genuine and lasting resilience for all,” Legarda said.

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