P4 BILLION  MORE  OF  'KATAS  NG  VAT'  FOR  3rd  QUARTER  RELEASED  SOON

CLARK ECONOMIC ZONE, AUGUST 27, 2008
(STAR) The government is expected to release another P4 billion in food and fuel subsidies and other assistance for the poor next month.

Speaking during dinner with reporters here yesterday, President Arroyo said funding would again come from the collections of the value added tax (VAT) on oil.

A committee led by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita is finalizing the new set of programs to extend aid to families and sectors severely affected by the rising cost of living, she added.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said about P4 billion would be released like in the previous quarters, although Malacañang has yet to firm up details of the new package.

The government is expected to earn about P18 billion from VAT on oil this year, he added.

Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, a member of the committee, said the package would likely include supplemental school feeding, with emphasis on schoolchildren in Mindanao.

Supplemental school feeding was being pushed by Social Security System administrator Romulo Neri, who oversees the National Social Welfare Program.

Cabral said there is high malnutrition incidence in Mindanao.

The supplemental feeding would be on top of the one kilo of rice given to schoolchildren in public schools daily to improve their academic performance, she added.

Cabral said the latest assistance would likely include P400 million worth of subsidies for poor households to pay for electricity bills at P500 per household.

The government was targeting a total of 6.7 million poor households nationwide that consume P500 or less worth of electricity a month, she added.

Cabral said the subsidies are estimated to cost the government P3.4 billion.

The government has so far handed out P3 billion in power subsidies and P400 million more needs to be released, she added.

Earlier this year, the administration launched the Katas ng VAT program to channel the windfall from the VAT on oil for subsidies for the poor and other forms of assistance to cushion the impact of rising prices.

The program’s first phase allotted P4 billion, with P2 billion for power subsidies; P1 billion for scholarships and student loans; P500 million for conversion of public utility vehicles to run on cheaper energy sources; and another P500 million for the replacement of incandescent bulbs to the more efficient compact fluorescent lamps.

The second tranche amounted to P4 billion, which included another P1 billion for small power users; P1 billion for the rehabilitation of infrastructure affected by typhoons; P1 billion for livelihood and loan packages for the spouses and immediate relatives of transport workers; P500 million for upgrading of provincial hospitals; and P500 million for direct cash assistance for senior citizens not covered by pension funds. – Paolo Romero


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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