By Jasper Y. Arcalas, Businessmirror, Feb 19, 2017
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) should evaluate the cash-transfer program it is implementing to find out whether it has fulfilled its goal of uplifting the lives of poor Filipinos.
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) must be reviewed, as it has become a “catalyst” for the displacement of Filipino rice farmers.
Citing farmers’ complaints in Palawan and other provinces, Piñol said more farmers have decided to leave the agriculture sector and have opted to just depend on the 4Ps.
“This is a problem that I have been confronted with in almost all of the rice- and corn-production areas where the Biyaheng Bukid forum was held in the past. The refusal of the 4Ps beneficiaries to undertake hard farm work because they have monthly financial support from the government could be viewed two ways,” he said in a statement over the weekend.
“First, it could be an indication of the emancipation of farmworkers from the hard work which offers oppressive wages. Second, it could be a danger sign of a growing mentality of mendicancy on the part of poor families who receive monthly allowances and now an additional amount for their rice allowance,” Piñol added.
The 4Ps, a conditional-cash transfer (CCT) program, extends a health grant amounting to P500 monthly year-round and an education grant of P300 per child for 10 months each year to each participating household.
To receive these cash grants, pregnant women must avail themselves of prenatal and postnatal care, and be attended during childbirth by a trained professional. Parents or guardians must attend the family-development sessions, which include topics on responsible parenting, health and nutrition.
Children aged 0 to 5 must also receive regular preventive health checkups and vaccines; those aged 6 to 14 must receive deworming pills twice a year; and children between 3 and 18 must enroll in school, and maintain an attendance of at least 85 percent of class days every month.
“As early as when I was governor of North Cotabato, I already saw these danger signs on the 4Ps. Families who line up in front of the Land Bank of the Philippines to withdraw their cash dole-outs from the automated teller machince would later be seen in fast-food restaurants and department stores buying cell-phone load,” Piñol said.
“The program has also offered an avenue for corruption, especially in many poor areas in Mindanao where the beneficiaries’ ATM cards are controlled by local officials who get a commission from poor families for providing cash advances,” he added.
To discourage farmers from abandoning their lands, Piñol said he has ordered the expansion of the government’s mechanization program to make farming more efficient.
Dr. Rene E. Ofreneo, former labor undersecretary and dean of the University of the Philippines (UP) School of Labor and Industrial Relations, earlier told the the BusinessMirror that the cash dole-outs being given by the government are driving farmers out of the agriculture sector, as they choose to be dependent on the 4Ps rather than engage in costly farming with low returns.
“The money they get from 4Ps is higher than what they earn in actual farming. Most of the farmers, especially the individual ones, don’t take into account their cost of labor in the total cost of production, and if you add it to their inputs, they would even incur more loss,” Ofreneo said.
Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the total number of employed people in the agriculture sector declined by 2.89 percent to 10.985 million in 2016, from 11.312 million recorded in 2015.
Of the figure, 9.719 million workers are in the agriculture, forestry and hunting subsector, while the remaining 1.266 million are in the fisheries subsector, according to PSA data.
Government data also showed that workers in the agriculture sector made up the second-largest segment, accounting for 26.9 percent of the estimated 40.8 million employed persons in 2016.
Instead of giving cash to farmers the government should just distribute planting materials to farmer-beneficiaries under the 4Ps, according to Arze Glipo, executive director of the Integrated Rural Development Foundation, a non-governmental organization.
“Farming is not profitable anymore due to expensive planting materials from the seeds, fertilizer and even the labor,” Glipo told the BusinessMirror.