House leader assures full support for gov’t fight to curb poverty

Martin Romualdez

HOUSE Majority Leader Martin Romualdez on Sunday vowed to marshal the votes needed to protect the budget allocated in the proposed 2020 P4.1 trillion national budget for uplifting the living condition of all poor Filipinos.

In particular, Romualdez said next year’s National Expenditure Program (NEP) contains P108.8 billion allocated for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the P166.5 billion for Universal Health Care.

“We, in Congress, support the initiatives of the Duterte administration to empower the poor through increased subsidies and grants aimed at ending the intergenerational cycle of poverty in the country,” said Romualdez, who chairs the House Committee on Rules, who was visibly seen last week attending budget hearings and briefings just to ensure its swift passage.

“The House leaders agreed to extend their full support to the 2020 budget allocated for poor Filipinos, particularly the P108.8 billion allocated for the 4Ps program and the P166.5 billion for Universal Health Care,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) and Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa).

Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu and Ako Bisaya party-list Rep. Sonny Lagon echoed Romualdez’s position, underscoring the importance of expediting the passage of the national budget to achieve President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte’s target of reducing poverty incidence in the country to 14 percent by 2022.

“We will not allow any budget delay because it will derail President Duterte’s poverty reduction efforts. House leaders under Speaker Cayetano will ensure that the government will be able to accelerate the implementation of its infrastructure projects by providing the necessary funding. The swift implementation of projects, such as the construction and upgrading of hospitals, schools, new roads and other vital programs that will promote the welfare of the marginalized sector will create more opportunities and jobs for Filipinos,” Abu pointed out.

For his part, Lagon said, “President Duterte is committed to relentlessly implement projects that would pursue sound reforms, social programs and provide quality life for all Filipinos.”

Romualdez recalled that the Duterte administration had already institutionalized the 4Ps program with the signing into law of Republic Act (RA) No. 11310, which Congress passed last April.

The 4Ps is the national poverty reduction strategy and human capital investment program that provides conditional cash transfer to poor households for a maximum period of seven years to improve the health, nutrition and education aspect of their lives.

As of March 31, 2019, the 4Ps was being implemented in 144 cities and 1,483 municipalities in 80 provinces, with a total of 4,876,394 registered households since the program started in 2008.

The 2020 national budget, Romualdez said, has allocated P67.4 billion for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) and P92.2 billion for the Department of Health (DoH) to strengthen the implementation of the Universal Health Care.

He noted that P9.4 billion was earmarked for hospitalization and assistance to indigent patients, making health services available even to low income individuals.

“With these initiatives, we are inching closer to the President’s target of lowering the poverty incidence to 20 percent three years from now from 30 percent in 2015, and for the Philippines to become an upper-middle income country by 2022,” said Romualdez.