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Social protection, food stamp program among top priorities of PBBM

Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has prioritized strengthening the social protection efforts of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) as an investment in the capacity of the Filipino people as the government endeavors toward post-pandemic recovery.

In his second State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday (July 24), the President made special mention of the Food Stamp Program, which earlier this month, was piloted by the DSWD in Tondo, Manila with the aim of putting an end to involuntary hunger and stunting in the country.

“Last week, we introduced the pilot Food Stamp Program (FSP), which seeks to supply the nutrition needs of the million most food-poor Filipinos,” President Marcos said in his SONA.

FSP is the newest initiative of the DSWD which aims to supplement the food intake of its beneficiaries through the provision of Php 3000-worth of monthly food credits in their Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).

The President emphasized that social welfare remains one of the top priorities of the current administration during his term saying that sufficient funds were available.

“Investments in public infrastructure and in the capacity of our people—through food, education, health, jobs, and social protection—remain our top priority,” the President said.

The chief executive stressed that about 70 percent of the government funds for the year 2023 were allocated for economic and social services.

“Naglaan tayo ng sapat na pondo para sa paglingap sa mga lubos na nangangailangan. Layunin natin na sila ay makabangon, mabigyan ng sapat na kakayahan, at maging produktibo,” President Marcos said.

(We allotted enough funds to take care of those in need. Our goal is to help them recover, provide them with adequate capabilities, and become productive.)

President Marcos also pointed out that the government is “inclusive in our pursuit of social protection,” true to the DSWD’s brand of ‘Bawat Buhay ay Mahalaga’.

“Para sa atin, ang bawat buhay ay mahalaga—anuman ang edad, kasarian, pangkat, relihiyon, o pisikal na kundisyon. Sila ay kukupkupin at tutulungan,” the President pointed out.

(For us, Bawat Buhay ay Mahalaga—regardless of age, gender, social status, religion, or physical condition. They will be nurtured and assisted.)

The chief executive emphasized the importance of DSWD programs for the protection of poor and vulnerable sectors such as the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation program, Social Pension Program for Indigent Senior Citizens, and the Cash-for-work for persons with disability.

President Marcos also mention ed in his SONA the different programs and initiatives of the DSWD that are aligned with his priorities for the remaining years of his term such as anti-hunger efforts, peace programs, and disaster response, and digitalization, among others.

Secretary Gatchalian welcomed the direction of the President to work closely with other national government agencies and stakeholders in the implementation of the different government programs, including social protection packages such as the FSP.

“Narinig natin sinabi niya ‘whole of nation approach.’ Walang isang departamento na may kaya niyan. So, ‘yon ang gagawin ng DSWD, makikipag-ugnayan sa iba’t ibang departamento; makikipag-ugnayan sa private sector nang maisulong natin ng mabuti,” Secretary Gatchalian said in an interview after the SONA.

(We heard him say ‘whole of nation approach.’ No single department can handle that alone. So, that’s what the DSWD will do – coordinate with different departments and engage with the private sector to advance it successfully.)

Anti-hunger initiatives

Learning from the pandemic, President Marcos said the government should refocus its health priorities which include addressing the malnutrition and stunting problems in the country.

“Natutuwa ako kasi marami sa programa natin ang binigyang diin ng ating Pangulo. Isa na doon ‘yung kakasimula pa lamang na Food Stamp Program,” DSWD Secretary Gatchalian said in a post-SONA interview with Isa Avendano-Umali of DZBB.

(I am glad because many of our programs were emphasized by our President. One of those is the recently launched Food Stamp Program.)

The Department also continues the implementation of the Supplementary Feeding Program for children attending Child Development Centers and Supervised Neighborhood Play nationwide.

These programs of the DSWD complement the current nutrition continuity programs of the Marcos Administration.

Peace programs

As the country nears a peaceful solution to its problems concerning Filipinos who have taken up arms against the government, President Marcos said that social protection programs played a pivotal role in the overall peace campaign of the government.

“For almost half a century, some of our fellow Filipinos have taken to arms to make their views heard. We are now at a point in our history when their armed struggle has evolved. We have now progressed together towards peace and development,” President Marcos noted.

“We have incorporated capacity-building and social protection into our reintegration programs to guarantee full decommissioning of former combatants,” the President said.

The DSWD continues to provide social protection packages, such as community development and livelihood assistance, among others to decommissioned combatants and former rebels, which according to the President, “have been effective in addressing the root cause of conflict in the countryside.”

Disaster response

President Marcos said his administration is reorganizing a “more adaptable, agile and effective” response teams.

“It has, in fact, been commented that sometimes we are over-prepared for such natural disasters. To continue that, we are reorganizing our response teams to make them more adaptable, agile and effective in times of calamities and crises, with a clear unity of command,” the President said.

The DSWD, as the vice-chair for disaster preparedness of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, is currently establishing the DSWD Command Center, a centralized command and control center for disaster response and operations.

The President also ensured that evacuation centers across the country are being upgraded “to withstand the greater forces of the new normal of extreme weather, as well as other natural and man-made disasters.”

For its part, the DSWD will continue to ensure smooth and swift coordination and provision of assistance and protection to internally displaced populations in evacuation centers during disasters and calamities.

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