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AKAP designed as safety net for ‘near poor’ minimum wage earners: DSWD

MANILA: The Ayuda para sa Kapos ang Kita Program (AKAP) was designed for those classified in the ‘near poor’ segment to prevent them from spiraling down below the poverty line, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian said on Wednesday.

Gatchalian said this ‘near poor’ segment include minimum wage earners who are vulnerable to economic shocks such as a runaway inflation that can easily send them back to poverty.

Households which have already exited from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) are also part of the ‘near poor’ category which need a safety net like the AKAP to prevent them from slipping below the poverty line.

‘This segment in our society feels excluded from our DSWD programs. An economic shock such as a runaway inflation can easily send the ‘near poor’ back to poverty,’ Gatchalian said in a news release.

Gatchalian said when the General Appropriations Act of 2024 put in a program such as AKAP, it was a welcome news to the DSWD ‘because we were alrea
dy contemplating on such program.’

He recalled that sometime during the 3rd quarter of 2023, DSWD officials had a meeting with national statistician Undersecretary Claire Dennis Mapa, chair of Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) secretariat and a known poverty expert.

‘We were already exploring programs that will provide a safety net for those classified as ‘near poor.’ Usec. Mapa briefed us on the value of a ‘near poor’ program so as to prevent a vicious cycle of minimum wage earners and 4Ps graduates going back to poverty,’ he said.

‘Sayang if they slip back into poverty because we have made investments to pull them out of poverty like 4Ps. Years of human capital investment will go to waste if they fall back and start all over again,’ he added.

Gatchalian maintained that the Legislative branch has the power of the purse and ‘we respect their wisdom in crafting the national budget.’

‘The GAA enjoys presumption of regularity because it went through tough scrutiny of the legislative branch. We will be r
emiss in our duties if we do not implement what is in the budget,’ he said.

He further stressed that not a single centavo of the AKAP budget as provided in the 2024 GAA has been spent as the DSWD is still crafting the guidelines to ensure the program’s smooth and efficient fulfillment of the agency’s mandate.

Regular line item

At the House of Representatives, Bataan Rep. Geraldine Roman said the PHP26.7-billion AKAP is a line item allocated to the DSWD under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2024.

Roman made the statement to dispel allegations linking the government assistance program to the people’s initiative for Charter change.

“For the knowledge of everyone, AKAP is a regular line item already in the GAA. Meron siyang (It has) a total of PHP26.7 billion. And nor does it state that it’s going to be used for the people’s initiative. So, I don’t know. You cannot just immediately conclude that it is going to be used for that purpose,’ Roman said in a press conference.

Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio
Gonzales Jr. said the DSWD has sole authority over the allocated funds as stipulated in the 2024 national budget.

Gonzales noted that senators had approved the funding for AKAP during the bicameral conference on the 2024 GAA, as some members from the upper chamber have questioned the existence of the program.

“They (Senators) are stopped from speaking against or criticizing what they have approved unless they tell us now that they voted yes without reading the budget or at least the conference committee report which is a summary of the outlay,’ Gonzales said.

AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Raul Angelo Bongalon emphasized the necessity of safeguarding the integrity of the AKAP initiative given its crucial role in assisting low-income earners.

‘AKAP has full of good intentions at panawagan ko na lang sana huwag bigyan ng pangit na kulay (and my only request is to not add any color to this program),’ Bongalon said.

Source: Philippines News Agency