Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday pushed for more lumads to be included in the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
Escudero said that unless more indigenous peoples (IPs) are brought into the fold of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) social protection programs, chronic poverty would persist especially in the rural areas.
The senator pointed out the CCT and similar DSWD programs were designed primarily for the poorest of the poor, which includes many IPs. Yet many of them are not enrolled in the CCT or any of these programs.
“But how many of our lumad communities have been reached by CCT? How many of their communities have been captured by poverty maps?” Escudero asked.
Escudero, who is running for vice president as an independent in the upcoming May 2016 elections, said he believes the true test of social protection is to provide care to the invisible poor, “including those who are concealed, literally by forest canopies.”
The government is responsible for breaking down all barriers, physical and cultural, to provide services and opportunities to those in need despite the remoteness of the communities they need to reach, he stressed.
Escudero, who formerly chaired the Senate finance panel, noted that funding for social protection and economic empowerment programs make up the bulk of the proposed P104.1-billion earmarked for the DSWD in 2016.
About two-thirds of this, or P62.7-billion, will go to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or also known as the CCT program.
Under the program the government gives conditional cash grants to the poorest Filipinos to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children. Under the 4Ps, a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 will be given to a family, provided the children regularly attend school and the mother, if pregnant, seeks pre- and post-natal care.
According to the DSWD, there were 4,353,597 families in the CCT program as of August. Of this, 570,056 are indigenous households, according to the DSWD. Next year, enrollees will be 4.62 million families, or 184,000 more than this year’s beneficiaries.