Press Release
October 28, 2015


Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should include more lumads and other indigenous groups in the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program of the government.

The senator said that unless more indigenous peoples (IPs) are brought into the fold of DSWD-managed social protection programs, the government will not be able to address chronic poverty, especially in rural areas.

"CCT and its companion programs were designed primarily for the poorest of the poor, which includes many IPs," he said. "But how many of our lumad communities have been reached by CCT? How many of their communities have been captured by poverty maps?"

While the remoteness of their communities makes it difficult for development programs to reach IPs, the government remains responsible for breaking down all barriers, physical and cultural, to provide services and opportunities to those in need, Escudero said.

"The true test of social protection is to provide care to the invisible poor, including those who are concealed, literally, by forest canopies," said Escudero, who is leading all voter preference surveys for vice president.

The senator, who used to chair the Senate Finance Committee, said funding for social protection and economic empowerment programs make up the bulk of the proposed P104.1 billion earmarked for the DSWD in 2016. About two-thirds of this, or P62.7 billion, will go to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

The 4Ps is a government development program that gives conditional cash grants to the poorest Filipinos to improve the health, nutrition, and the education of children. Under the 4Ps, a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 will be given to a family, provided the children regularly attend school and the mother, if pregnant, seeks pre- and post-natal care.

As of August, there were 4,353,597 families in the CCT program. Of this, 570,056 are indigenous households, according to the DSWD. Next year, enrollees will be 4.62 million families, or 184,000 more than this year's beneficiaries.

"Ang tanong: Doon sa 184,000 pamilyang maidadagdag, ilan ba dito ay lumad?" Escudero asked.

He said he will ask the DSWD for data on the participation rate of lumads and other IP groups on various DSWD programs, not just the CCT, and use these data as guide on how to tailor-fit programs according to the IPs' needs.

Beneficiaries of the 4Ps are selected through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), which identifies and locates poor households in every community. The problem is that the NHTS-PR being used today is based on 2003 data.

Escudero also urged eligible IPs to apply for benefits granted by the government to senior citizens and children.

He cited the Indigent Senior Pension Program, which gives poor senior Filipinos an annual stipend of P6,000, and the KALAHI-CIDDS National Community-Driven Development Program, which funds the expansion of community-led projects into a national scale.

The government has allocated P5.9 billion and P7.5 billion for its social pension for indigent senior citizens for 2015 and 2016, respectively.

The KALAHI-CIDDS National Community-Driven Development Program, meanwhile, has a proposed P11-billion budget that would allow it to fund 7,713 community-identified projects like roads.

Another P9 billion has been allocated to livelihood projects under the DSWD's Sustainable Livelihood Program for 2016, or more than double the 2015 allocation of P4 billion, Escudero said.

"Dadagdan ng P5 bilyon ang pondong pautang nito. Ngunit siguraduhin din natin na mas maraming mga pamilyang katutubo ang makikilahok sa programa," Escudero said.

The senator urged DSWD to bring in more IP children in its P4 billion supplemental feeding program next year.

"According to the DSWD request, they will be serving meals to about 2.1 million children in daycare centers and neighborhood associations. It will be good if this will have an IP benchmark," Escudero said. "The idea is to increase the IP content of all DSWD programs, which is key to reducing poverty in rural areas."

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