De Lima files bill institutionalizing ‘cash-for-work’ program for poor families

To reduce poverty and promote inclusive and sustainable rural development across the poorest regions in the country, Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure institutionalizing the "cash-for-work" programs for qualified poor families.

De Lima, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 783 which seeks to provide temporary employment to every qualified individual member of a poor family in rural areas.

"Most of the poorest regions in the country are composed mainly of rural and agricultural areas suffering from some combination of isolation, lack of infrastructure, lack of services, and vulnerability to natural disasters like drought and flooding," she said.

"Efforts to reduce poverty incidence in urban areas vis-a-vis rural areas have resulted in the latter being left behind as poverty is increasingly becoming a rural phenomenon due to misguided poverty alleviation and reduction strategies and the overall development paradigm adopted by the government," she added.

Official figures show that in 2015, poverty incidence among Filipinos was pegged at 21.6 percent, or roughly 21.93 million Filipinos who could not afford to buy their basic food and non-food needs necessary to maintain a decent standard of living.

Region VIII, Caraga Administrative Region and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao have all registered the highest poverty incidence rates at 38.7, 39.1 and 53.7 percent, respectively

In her measure, De Lima proposed the creation of a Rural Employment Assistance Program (REAP) to provide temporary job to a qualified member of poor households who volunteers to do unskilled labor for a minimum of 45 days but not more than 90 days in a year.

Under SB No. 783, individuals qualified under REAP may be hired in community development projects, such as in the rebuilding or rehabilitation of agri-based livelihood assets damaged by natural disasters, rehabilitation of common service facilities, and development of physical assets, such as farm-to-market roads, among others.

They are also granted the option to access micro-insurance as a form of social security in the event of accidental death or dismemberment, medical reimbursement, and bereavement assistance at a socialized cost.

In coordination with the local government units and other concerned government agencies, the Department of Social Welfare and Development is mandated to conduct a preliminary joint assessment of individuals interested in partaking in the program to determine their eligibility.

"The assessment shall [t]ake into consideration the inherent knowledge, skills, capacities, and capabilities of potential qualified participants so as to properly determine the type and nature of projects that are most suited to them and their respective communities," she explained.

Qualified individual is entitled to receive compensation for each day of work at the rate of not less than 75 percent of the prevailing minimum wage set by the concerned Regional Tripartite Wages and Productivity Board (RTWPB). According to the lady Senator from Bicol, the proposed institutionalization of the "cash-for-work" programs would help reduce the vulnerabilities of rural populations and narrow the regional poverty incidence gap.

"This Act intends that the people not be perceived and treated as passive end-users of cash-for-work programs but rather as active agents who are just as capable as any 'outsider' of determining which projects would bring the most benefit to their respective communities," she pointed out.

The proposed institutionalization of the "cash-for-work" program was one of the social justice measures De Lima pushed in the 17th Congress. Two of her pro-poor measures - the Magna Carta of the Poor Act and the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program (4Ps) Act - have recently been signed into laws.

Source: Senate of the Philippines