Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian met with the representatives of the United Nations to the country to strengthen its partnership along social protection programs, on Friday, February 10, at the DSWD Central Office in Batasan, Quezon City.
Secretary Gatchalian discussed with the UN representatives, led by UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez, his plans for the DSWD to explore partnerships and further improvement of the Department’s efforts to end poverty and hunger, and manage disaster resilience among Filipinos experiencing frequent typhoons.
“One of the priorities that I am trying to pitch [to the Marcos Administration] is fighting poverty,” Secretary Gatchalian said.
He added that to end poverty, the Department should first address the hunger problem that many communities across the country are experiencing. One of the steps to take is to come up with digital food stamps that can be used by its recipients to buy goods in grocery stores and supermarkets, Secretary Gatchalian said.
In addition, Secretary Gatchalian mentioned that the Department aims to mobilize enumerators to identify the individuals and families who are experiencing hunger, specifically targeting the 1.5 million households in pockets of poverty. The Secretary sought the assistance of UN in finding means to finance the said project.
Meanwhile, Mr. Gustavo González said that the Organization is ready to provide the necessary technical assistance, as well as the resources needed to roll out this proposal.
Mr. González even commended the Secretary for coming up with this kind of mechanism to end hunger saying, “The way that you are framing things is brilliant.”
Secretary Gatchalian committed to draft a concept note with the help of the DSWD’s Team to End Hunger, which is composed of social workers. The rough draft will then be presented to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for further improvement.
Anticipatory action during disasters
Furthermore, disaster response operations were also discussed during the meeting.
Secretary Gatchalian shared his proposition to strengthen the supply chain system of the Department by establishing hubs and spokes at the regional and local levels. This, per the Secretary, will greatly help in the quick response operations of the Department during disasters.
Meanwhile, the UN team mentioned that the Organization is currently pilot-testing the Anticipatory Action for predictable hazards in the Bicol and Eastern Visayas Regions. This mechanism provides relief items and other goods to the potential victims even before the disaster comes.
It can be recalled that the Department and the United Nations Children’s Fund or UNICEF signed an agreement in June 2022 to operationalize the multi-purpose unconditional cash transfers in typhoon-vulnerable municipalities.
The Secretary now aims to replicate the said mechanism in the overall disaster action plan of the Department. Further, he said that the DSWD will formulate guidelines for Anticipatory Action for cash transfers to the poor, as well as for the near poor.
With this initiative, Secretary Gatchalian targets to address the vulnerability of the transient or near poor in times of disaster.
The meeting ended with a continuing partnership between DSWD and the UN geared toward further improving the social protection packages of the Department amid disasters and crises.