Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Recto : Use part of P7.6B CCT overhead for school feeding

MANILA-Budget space can be carved out of the P7.6 billion administrative cost of the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in expanding feeding programs for malnourished children, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said today.

Recto said the overhead expense of the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) will increase to P7.6 billion from about P5 billion this year.

“If we retain the amount, then there will be P2.6 billion more for supplemental feeding.  If we allow half of the increase being sought, then it is still P1.3 billion in additional funding,” he said.

“Pwede nating pandagdag ito sa isang klase ng 4Ps naman o ang Programang Pagkain sa Pampublikong Paaralan,” Recto said.

Recto chairs the Senate Finance subcommittee reviewing the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) budget.

“We're done with the hearings.  I am now drafting my subcommittee report.  I will recommend some internal adjustments in the DSWD budget,” he said. 

For next year, DSWD’s budget will soar to P109 billion, P25.5 billion bigger than what it is getting this year, and catapulting the once-cellar dweller in government appropriations to the Top 5 biggest recipients.

Bulk of the DWSD’s 2015 budget will be for the 4Ps, with a proposed allocation of P64. 7 billion, of which P57.1 billion is in cash grants and P7.6 billion in administrative cost.

The latter consists of personnel payroll which will reach P3.35 billion next year; training (P404 million); monitoring (P429 million); publicity and information (P115 million); bank service fees (P700); equipment purchase (P24.4 million).   

Recto said he would “validate the justifications for the proposed increases because some of them, on paper, are hefty.”

“Is the almost 185 % increase in the publicity budget really necessary? Why are we increasing payroll by P1.4 billion? Why are we doubling the allocation for monitoring to P430 million?” he said.

“If the cash grant portion of CCT will remain at P57 billion, then why are we increasing the CCT administrative expense by P2.6 billion?” the senator added.

Once he identifies what amounts can be realigned, Recto said he will recommend that these be “laterally moved to the feeding program for daycare pupils.” 

He said the budget for the “supplementary feeding program” of the DSWD is P3.36 billion next year

DSWD’s feeding program involves serving one hot meal a day for 120 days to 2,053,383 0-5 year olds in daycares or under “supervised neighborhood play.” 

What the Senate can do, Recto explained, “is to increase the P14 per meal budget or increase the number of beneficiaries or both children.” 

The DSWD budget, he noted, can only cover 30 percent of the estimated 7.3 million underweight, stunted and wasted children below five years old.

Another option is to include supplemental feeding in other underfunded DSWD programs, Recto said.

“One of these is the DSWD streetchildren program which targets a measly number of 3,000 kids,” Recto said.

“If we are putting too much on its plate, then we can ask DSWD to partner with other agencies like DepED whose P1.3 billion feeding budget is way below what it needs,” Recto said.

He said other “feeding funds” can be sourced from programs outside those of the DSWD.

“But we can begin with what the DSWD can dispose, “ he said.    

"The CCT administrative overhead is two and a half times the proposed budget of the Department of Tourism, thrice the budget of ARMM, twice that of the Department of Trade and Industry, and bigger than the combined budgets of all the 29 state colleges and universities in Mindanao,” Recto pointed out.

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