Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero sees the need to expand the government's conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to include a livelihood package for beneficiaries and transform the flagship poverty alleviation program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) into an economic program.
Incorporating the "panghanapbuhay" (livelihood) component in the CCT, also called the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), will equip recipients with skills and training to help them become self-sufficient and wean away from government dole-outs.
"Gusto naming dagdagan ng 'P' yung 4Ps: Panghanapbuhay. Dapat dumating ang panahon na kaya nang tumayo sa sarili niyang paa iyong CCT beneficiary," Escudero said.
The veteran lawmaker said the DSWD could provide capital for small businesses and collaborate with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for the training of beneficiaries.
"Let's just not give them fish; let's teach them how to fish by giving them capital and skills training. That should be part of 4Ps," said Escudero, frontrunner in various pre-election surveys for vice president.
"Dapat dumating ang panahon, na kapag natapos na ang programa, kaya na nila tumayo sa sarili nilang paa," he explained.
Currently the program gives out a monthly stipend of up to P1,400 to each family beneficiary provided their children regularly attend school and the mothers, if pregnant, seek pre- and post-natal care, as part of government's efforts to improve the health, nutrition and education of children from the poorest sector of society.
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.
As of August, there were 4,353,597 families under the CCT program, including 570,056 indigenous households. Next year, enrollees will be 4.62 million families, or 184,000 more than this year's beneficiaries.
Social protection and economic empowerment programs make up the bulk of the proposed P104.1 billion earmarked for the DSWD in 2016, two-thirds of this, or about P62.7 billion, will go to the development program.
Escudero said expanding the 4Ps program has always been part of the agenda of Partido Galing at Puso, as he dismissed as pure "black propaganda" reports circulating in the provinces that he and presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe plan to discontinue the program if they are elected to office.
"Number one, this is black propaganda. Number two, it is a complete and flat out lie because it is a contract by the government," the senator said.
"Hindi natin pwedeng talikuran yan kahit sinong umupo bilang pangulo. Obligadong ituloy po yan," he clarified.
Escudero, however, sees the need to step up the process of weeding out spurious names from the list of beneficiaries to ensure that only deserving families receive the aid.