P1K aid each for 90% of PH population urged

A House leader on Tuesday proposed to give 90 percent of Filipino P1,000 each as emergency assistance during the extended enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon as a former House leader questioned the exclusion of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to social amelioration and adjustment programs under a new law designed to defeat the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, who chairs the House committee on ways and means, made the proposal for Universal Basic Income (UBI) in response to appeals that President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte consider the middle class in providing aid to households affected by the extended ECQ and by other measures in various parts of the country.

“All Filipinos except those in the top 10 percent of the population receive between P1,000 each in emergency assistance during the ECQ.

The said coverage would include the middle class. It will do away much of the convoluted eligibilities and make for faster distribution,” said Salceda, explaining that he first recommended the universal basic income approach in a letter to the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease way back March 19.

At the same time, former ACTS-OFW Coalition of Organizations party-list Rep. Aniceto Bertiz III appealed to the government to reconsider the decision not to include distressed OFWs among the beneficiaries of social amelioration program (SAP) under the “Bayanihan Heal as One Act of 2020" or Republic Act (RA) No. 11469.

“It is wrong to exempt OFW families from the social amelioration program. With lockdowns all over the world, our OFWs couldn’t even go out to send money.

Hindi ba marunong magbasa ng guidelines itong mga LGUs or they’re just making their own guidelines and grossly violating the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) MC 04 s2020? OFWs are not also getting income or salaries because of the lockdown, and there are thousands of OFWs just lost their jobs overseas and daily losing jobs or livelihoods,” said Bertiz, ACTS-OFW chairperson.

“I think it’s about time to stand for the families of the OFWs who’s being discriminated because they have relatives from abroad. Every household or family in the country has at least one OFW. It is a fact so why they will exempt them?” Bertiz stressed.

“Mas mahirap ang situation ng families of our OFWs, kasi sa Middle East they're implementing very harsh lockdown, hindi lang kulong meron pang penalty of P100,000 sa pera natin ‘pag mahuli ka sa labas, and most of the companies are implementing no work, no pay policy. So saan na lalapit ngayon ang mga pamilya nila, at isa pa po wala naman sa guidelines ng IATF or DSWD na exempted or they're not included sa mabibigyan ng tulong,” Bertiz lamented.

Salceda said President Duterte is a committed advocate for building a strong middle class and “has always had the middle class’s welfare and their contribution to economic growth in mind,” citing Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), “Duterte’s first major structural reform policy” as strongly pro-middle-class.

He also said that a universal basic income approach would deliver aid faster to a broader segment of the population.

Salceda cited the contribution of middle-income households to the country’s tax intake, saying that households in the 7th, 8th, and 9th deciles contributed some P44.4 billion in taxes, of which P29.4 billion were personal income taxes.

He also said that the average lower-middle to middle income family received between P9,500 and P27,000 in additional take home pay every year due to TRAIN.

“Clearly, the President takes the middle class into consideration in his economic policies. Kaya lang, siyempre po, uunahin muna talaga ang mahihirap. From the perspective of welfare po, sila talaga ang pinakaunang tutulungan,” said Salceda.

“Pero, may paraan naman po para may makarating na tulong sa middle class,” said Salceda. “Two weeks ago po, nagsulat ako kay Pangulong Duterte ng plano para i-cover ang 90 percent ng population ng
Pilipinas.”

“I asked the President to consider a basic income approach to distributing the emergency subsidy. Essentially, you distribute P1,000 to P2,000 per head. Bale ang eligibility lang po, basta Pilipino ka at hindi ka mayaman, makakatanggap ka ng tulong. Ang tingin ko po kasi, batay na rin sa mga pag-aaral natin ng welfare systems ng ibang bansa, at batay sa model halimbawa ng COVID subsidy sa America, pinaka straightforward at simple ang basic income. Walang duplications at walang confusion sa eligibility,” Salceda explained.

In Salceda’s letter to President Duterte, which he sent last March 25, the congressman said that a basic income approach would be advantageous “for ease of administration, ease of accountability, and to avoid arbitrariness in selecting eligible beneficiaries and sectors.”

“The costs of basic income approximate the P200 billion being projected for the emergency subsidy program. In fact, it may be
cheaper. To cover 90 percent of the population would require P198.2 billion. To cover 80 percent would require P176.2 billion,” said Salceda in his letter.

“Basic income would be easier to target (i.e., if you are wealthier than 80 percent of Filipinos, you will not receive it. Otherwise, you are entitled). It would entail less administrative costs as it would not require the kind of data mining required of identifying
beneficiaries from existing but disjointed lists,” according to the letter.

“A basic income approach would also be easy to distribute (in some of the poorest barangays in the country, all citizens would qualify). An open application system would be much simpler. As an entitlement earned by simple virtue of citizenship and income, it would be depoliticized. It also does away with overlaps where households qualify under two or more bases for entitlement,” the letter explained.

“Essentially po, ang advantage ng basic income, ang approach is human-centered. Kapag maraming maghahati-hati sa isang household, maliit ang 5,000. Kaya maganda ang basic income per person approach. Because food intake is per person,” he said.

Salceda said that the basic income approach can be explored in the next iterations of subsidy.

“The implementing agencies are learning about the difficulties of a multi-modal system on the ground. Yung basic income po, madali kasi lahat pasok puwera patay, puwera mayaman,” he said.