President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to increase the monthly subsidy for poor Filipino families from P200 to P500.
“I told Sonny [Dominguez] the feedback from the ground, that this P200 monthly ‘ayuda’ (cash aid) is too small. I told him to look for money wherever possible,” Duterte said.
“[P200] cannot sustain a family of three, or four, five—those who are really poor and have plenty of children,” he said.
According to Dominguez, the P200-a-month subsidy would go to the bottom 50 percent of all households and will be on top of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) conditional cash grant that can reach up to P3,450 per month.
The subsidy will run for a year, for a total budget of P33 billion.
Duterte said Dominguez’s initial response to his order was that it can be done, but the government will “have a problem six months later.”
“I told him, ‘You crazy person. We are long out of government by then. Let the next administration deal with it,’” the President said.
“It will be an uphill battle for the next generation if we increase it to P500. But let the next president handle that, never mind where he has to steal the money if necessary. But let us give this P500 now, and I hope this would go a long way really to help,” Duterte said.
The order to release the cash aid came as Duterte decided to retain the excise tax on fuel products.
The Finance department said suspending fuel excise taxes would lead to a massive revenue loss of P105.9 billion, or about a half-percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) this year.
The DOF was likewise lukewarm to a proposal from the Department of Labor and Employment for a P24 billion-wage subsidy to support minimum wage workers for three months.
“We are really stretched. If we can barely afford the budget of more than P200 [for low-income households], I guess you know the answer to a P24-billion proposal,” Finance Assistant Secretary Paola Alvarez said previously.
Aside from the cash aid for indigent households, the only subsidies available now are for the transport and the agricultural sectors.
The government has earlier allocated P5 billion to assist public transport drivers with a P6,500 subsidy for two months, and a separate P1-billion budget for fuel discounts to benefit the agricultural sector bearing the brunt of increased oil prices.
There are, however, pending wage hike petitions in at least six regions, including Metro Manila.
The labor union alliance Unity for Wage Increase Now! Has filed a petition for a P750 minimum wage.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), on the other hand, sought for a P470 increase in the daily minimum wage in Metro Manila to increase it to P1,007.
Labor chief Silvestre Bello III earlier said the current P537 daily minimum wage in the NCR may no longer be enough to cover commodities such as food, electricity, and water bills.