MANILA, DECEMBER 28, 2011 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - Despite the onslaught of killer typhoons in the country every year, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has prioritized its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program over assistance to disaster victims and other projects such as the Juvenile Justice Act in the agency’s 2012 budget.

Prof. Marivic Raquiza, co-convenor of Social Watch Philippines which organized the Alternative Budget Initiative (ABI), said a scrutiny of DSWD appropriations for next year showed that 80 percent of the agency’s P49.359-billion programs budget has been allotted to the CCT, while all other programs have to split the remaining 20 percent or P9.914 billion, including assistance for victims of disasters and natural calamities.

She noted in particular that the budget for disaster victims of P48.043 million is less than one-tenth of one percent of the total DSWD budget.

“The DSWD 2012 budget is evidence of a glaring injustice: CCT enjoys the lion’s share of the DSWD budget while all other programs have to make do with what’s left. Ultimately, this only undermines the DSWD’s support for other important segments of the poor such as persons with disabilities (PWDs), senior citizens (SC), individuals and families in especially difficult circumstances (EDCs), victims of calamities and disasters, trafficked persons, among others,” she said.

Raquiza is an assistant professor at the National College of Public Administration and Governance of the University of the Philippines-Diliman.

She lamented the P48-million budget allotted for assistance to victims of calamities and disasters is way below the ABI’s proposal of allotting at least one percent of the DSWD budget for disaster victims or about P493.59 million.

“Such meager budget undermined the capacity of government to mitigate the impact of destructive typhoons on the lives of the poor,” she said.

Raquiza said the ABI Social Protection Cluster also wondered why there is no funding in the DSWD 2012 budget for the Juvenile Justice Act whose last funding was provided in 2010 when it got P80 million.

The group is also asking why the budget for the program for PWDs and SCs dramatically decreased from P882 million in 2011 to P 21.185 million in 2012, she added.

Raquiza said ABI Social Protection Cluster had proposed a one percent increase of the agency budget for other programs that respond to the needs of specific sectors which received minimal assistance in the DSWD budget in the last few years, especially when compared with the dramatic budgetary increases for the CCT.

Overall, the ABI proposed a budget of P2.96154 billion, or P493.59 million for each of the following programs: Assistance to victims of disasters and natural calamities, Assistance to PWDs and SCs, Recovery and Reintegration of Trafficked Persons, Implementation of the Juvenile Justice Act (Republic Act 9344), PAMANA Program for IDPs-Livelihood, and Comprehensive Project for Street Families and IPs.

She said these programs will receive amounts way below the ABI proposal and many of the group’s recommendations for education, agriculture and environment were totally ignored.

“Yet, going by the huge budgetary allocations of the 4Ps, it is privileging CCT beneficiaries over other sectors and segments of the population who equally deserve attention and support,” she said.

Raquiza said the government is mandated to work with different organizations in implementing projects and services that will alleviate poverty and empower disadvantaged individuals, families and communities for an improved quality of life.

“Other poor sectors of society who equally need assistance from the government are only provided minimal support by DSWD. This is evidenced by CCT’s consistent and generous allocation while other programs get by with a fixed amount, one-time funding or minimal increases,” she said.

Raquiza said Social Watch Philippines is renewing its call for a comprehensive program performance audit of the CCT program to determine whether and to what extent the program has met its objectives.

“The assessment should be undertaken by an independent body and must include members from the citizens’ movements,” she said. “Based on this logic, program expansion and changes in the budgetary allocation of the CCT should depend on the results of such an assessment.”

She said there has been no wide-ranging independent assessment of the effects and impact of the CCT on poverty reduction and human development in the country, including organizational and administrative aspects.

And yet, the country is witness to the dramatic escalation of budgetary allocation to the CCT every year without the benefit of such an assessment, she added.

Convened by Social Watch Philippines, the ABI is a consortium of various civil society organizations engaged in research and lobby efforts to study and propose alternative national government expenditures on the areas of health, education, agriculture, and environment, as well as social protection and persons with disabilities sector.

ABI also engages the macroeconomic aspect of the budget and the sources of financing.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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