The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in coordination with Land Bank of the Philippines, has already released cash grants to some 2.6 million household-beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program under the national government’s Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) program provided for by the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law. The first beneficiaries of the UCT are the Pantawid households that have Land Bank cash cards and those who access their benefits over the  counter.

Under the TRAIN law, the total number of Filipino households and individuals who will receive the UCT is   10 million.  The beneficiaries are divided into three main categories: 4.4 million are members of the 4Ps program; 2.6 million are social pension senior citizen beneficiaries; and the remaining three million will be coming from the DSWD’s Listahanan.

Pantawid beneficiaries can withdraw their 2018 cash grants amounting to P2,400 through Land Bank Automated Teller Machines (ATM) nationwide and through its various conduits. The UCT cash grant is a top up benefit for Pantawid beneficiaries who are also receiving their regular cash grant and P600 rice subsidy from the Pantawid Pamilya Program.

Biggest tax reform mitigation program

The UCT is the tax subsidy provided under the TRAIN law to help the poor cushion the adverse economic effect of the policy.  It is considered to be the biggest tax reform mitigation program under the TRAIN law which seeks to provide 10 million beneficiaries with cash subsidies amounting to P200 a month for 2018 and P300 a month for 2019 and 2020.

OIC Leyco said, “Tax reforms  have caused economic shocks among the ranks of the poor, and this was foreseen. This  why the UCT scheme was created by the TRAIN law.  Knowing that the poor will be most affected, DSWD lost no time in putting together the implementing guidelines of the UCT so that the cash grants can be provided as soon as possible.”

DSWD also coordinated with the Department of Finance (DOF) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and came up with a joint circular on the UCT program implementation which specifically states that the funds will be lodged with the Land Bank and to be used in accordance to the operational guidelines of the of DSWD. To minimize administrative costs, the DSWD has decided to give the UCT cash grants on a yearly basis.

“We are confident that the beneficiaries will use their subsidies wisely, as various studies reveal that 98 percent of poor families spend government cash grants on food and basic commodities,” OIC Leyco said.

Among those who were able to secure their UCT was  Rosa Mercader of Brgy. Batasan in Quezon City who affirmed that the amount is useful to her family given that her husband is not securely employed: he is a taxi driver, but has no regular driving assignment.

“Malaking tulong po ito sa amin. Unexpected kasi na makatanggap kami ng ganito. Akala namin na maliit lang na halaga. Yung pala ‘di namin akalain na ito pala, P2,400 sa loob ng isang taon na. Malaking halaga narin ito sa amin dahil dagdag panggastos lalo na ngayon, pa-graduation na ng mga bata. Isa pa yung sa akin kasi, may college ako kaya kailangang kailangan ko po talaga makapagbayad ng tuition (This is a big help to us as this is unexpected.  P2,400 is  big amount of money for us.  This will help  us cover the educational expenses of my children, especially as graduation season is near),” Rosa added.

Another 4Ps beneficiary, Rodelio Mabali, agreed with Rosa Mercader.

A father of four, Rodelio said “Malaking tulong sa amin lalo na ngayon na mataas na ang mga bilihin.  Magagamit yun na dagdag budget, unang-una sa pagbili ng bigas at iba pa. Nagpapasalamat ako at nagkaroon ng ganitong programa (This serves as a big help for my family especially as prices of basic commodities  have increased.  The amount is an extra budget  to purchase rice and other goods.  I am thankful that there is a program like this).”

Asked if the UCT program will extend beyond the three years mandated by the TRAIN law, OIC Leyco said, “It is up to the lawmakers if the UCT will be extended.  However, with or without the UCT program, DSWD still has other programs which the poor can access when needed.” #