The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday said the government can only afford to provide poor households with a P500 monthly subsidy for three months at most to help them cope with the impact of rising fuel prices.
In an online briefing Wednesday, DBM officer-in-charge Tina Rose Marie Canda said the government’s revenue collection has been limited—and what has been collected has already been allocated.
She said the P500 assistance would go to 13 million beneficiaries, which would come up to P6.5 billion.
Canda said this was a large amount for an unprogrammed expense and that the government could give no more even if it wanted to.
President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered that the monthly financial assistance to poor beneficiaries be increased from P200 to P500 after successive hikes in the pump prices of petroleum products and other basic commodities.
“It will be an uphill battle for the next administration 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.
Under the original plan proposed by the Department of Finance, the monthly P200 subsidy would last until the end of the year, with a total budget of P33 billion.
Prices of petroleum products have been on an increase in 11 of the last 12 weeks, aggravated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Senator Grace Poe, who had described the P200 monthly subsidy as “a pittance,” said the government must not scrimp on aid to the poor.
Presidential candidate Senator Manny Pacquiao said the cash subsidy would not come close to its objective of easing the economic difficulties faced by the poor.
Pacquiao has maintained that the government should instead give a sack of rice to poor beneficiaries instead of a cash amount that is not enough.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said the government has been earning billions from fuel taxes, but has been miserly in its help to the poor.
Senator Christopher Go, the President’s close aide, said the increase from P200 to P500 a month showed the President’s concern for the poor, even though his term ends in June.
In the House, Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the monthly subsidies will be an immediate relief for struggling Filipino households.
“We recommended this in November 2021 in a committee hearing attended by the economic agencies, and reiterated the same during the first hearing of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Fuel Price Crisis, which I co-chair. We welcome the announcement that it will be done and that it can be funded,” said Salceda, chairman of the House committee on ways and means.
Salceda said the funding source will probably be some mix of existing budgetary items and augmentation of existing items funded by dividend remittances and other non-tax sources. In any case, there are sources that can be tapped.