The government last week graduated 249 Negros Oriental beneficiaries of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in the Philippines, known as the 4Ps, saying their lives have already improved.
The 4Ps beneficiaries were deleted from the list, after they had been given trainings, and had acquired certain livelihood skills.
“They now have diversified sources of income since they have livelihood training, and have built confidence in engaging in business,” said DSWD7 Regional Director Shalaine Marie Lucero.
Developed by the World Bank and the government of the Philippines, and signed into law on April 17, 2019, the 4Ps provides conditional cash grants to qualified indigent families for a maximum of seven years to improve their health, nutrition, and the education of their children aged 0-18.
This program is one of the several social programs that have cushioned the poor from the adverse impacts of various shocks the country experienced in recent years.
A study estimates that the program has led to a poverty reduction of 1.4 percentage points per year, or 1.5 million less poor Filipinos prior to the pandemic.
However, according to a Social Weather Stations survey, the protracted impositions of lockdowns not only exacerbated the economic insecurity of poor families but also created an estimated 1.8 million new poor families by July 2021.
The shift into online and distance learning has reportedly exacerbated the crises of many Filipino households, especially students from low-income and poor families, given their severely-limited access to essential educational needs.
The government should rethink the idea of graduating 4Ps beneficiaries, while the economy is still in the doldrums.
There is a need to follow through with these families by extending their inclusion in the program, to avoid the scenario of these people sliding back to poverty.
Section 4 of the 4Ps Act “provides conditional cash transfer to poor households for a maximum period of seven years” but allows the National Advisory Council to also recommend providing conditional cash transfer “for a longer period under exceptional circumstances.”
The prevailing economic scenario should qualify under exceptional circumstances, and allow the government to provide continued assistance to poor families.