May 12, 2012
Rethinking of CCT, policies pushed as more Filipinos go hungry
Sen. Ralph G. Recto yesterday expressed alarm that despite billions being poured into the government's flagship anti-poverty program called conditional cash transfer (CCT), many Filipinos are still going hungry and in fact an estimated 4.8 million of them are skipping meals once in three months.
Recto said the government through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) may have to re-assess its CCT strategies to determine if the intended beneficiaries are being served.
"Inspite of the CCT, the number of the poor and hungry is increasing. There must be something wrong there," Recto, Senate ways and means chairman, said.
He added: "Are we really hitting the intended beneficiaries? We might need to rethink the strategy."
Recto said before the government heeds calls from World Bank and Asian Development Bank to expand the CCT program through an enlarged budget, the government must endeavor to identify the strategic loopholes.
He said one probable loophole is the use of the National Household Targeting System (NHTS) as "search engine" for locating and identifying the CCT beneficiaries.
Recto, however, noted that a report by the Commission on Audit (COA) revealed that some businessmen and landowners were also enrolled in the CCT.
"Before we decide to expand it, there must be re-assessment of the strategies and data," he pointed out.
"If we must overhaul and revalidate the NHTS and purge it with contaminated data, then we should do it," Recto added.
The senator said he has no objections increasing the budget of the CCT as long as it reaches the intended poor beneficiaries.
"This is better than giving-away condoms, but the targeting must be precise like smart-bombs," Recto stressed.
The senator likewise said severe hunger in the population may have long-term implication in improving the "brain pool" of the country or developing a productive population that has an average to more than average IQs.
Recto said decades of producing malnourished children have left us with IQ- and vertically-challenged population.
He said this should also explain why graduating college students are declining over the years because they were the malnourished children in the 80s and 90s when the country was in dire straits.
"We can't expect those children who are going hungry right now to be the thinking generation of the future," he said.
Recto nevertheless conceded that one reason for the increase in Filipinos going hungry is the weak economic growth posted last year.
But he said this could have been tempered with the effective implementation of the CCT.
Recto likewise pushed for the revival of feeding programs in public schools wherein the cook and food servers would be the parents with supplies procured from community merchants and farmers and paid for by the government.
From an outlay of P21.9 billion in 2011, the CCT is now a P34.9 billion poverty alleviation program of the government.
An estimated 4.8 million families said they experienced hunger at least once in the past three months based on the latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey.
The survey conducted among 1,200 respondents from March 10 to 13 found 23.8 percent of the respondents experiencing hunger, higher than the 22.5 percent (4.5 million families) in the survey last December.
SWS said the latest hunger rate surpassed the highest record of 23.7 percent in December 2008.
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