The proposed DSWD budget for feeding malnourished kids will be cut by P1 billion, and Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto has warned officials to be ready with a good explanation “on why they will put this good program on a diet.”
Recto said that under next year’s national budget, funding for the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s “supplementary feeding” program, which caters to undernourished 3 to 5 year olds, will go down from the current P4.42 billion to P3.42 billion.
“Is it a case of budgetary indigestion? Of the DSWD having too much on its plate? Is it due to the failure of local governments to submit financial reports? Whatever the reasons, for the sake of the children, let’s find ways to improve budget absorption,” Recto said.
The senator was referring to DSWD’s “seeming omnipresence in society, where one in four Filipinos, or 28.3 million, is a recipient of DSWD assistance, courtesy of its megabillion budget.”
One of its anchor projects, the feeding program, seeks to provide one nutritious meal a day for 120 days to 1.746 million 3 to 5 year olds in poor communities.
Such intervention, Recto stressed, is necessary at a time when malnutrition kills 95 children a day, or 35,000 a year in the Philippines, and when 1 in 4 children under the age of 5 is underweight, and 3 in 10 are stunted.
Recto said he is optimistic that the Senate and the executive branch can explore ways on how to improve the implementation of this program “to include, for example, joint ventures with social action arms of corporations, aid agencies, and other nonprofits.”
“Hirap din ang DSWD. It runs a big catering operation. Under its feeding program, they have to serve 209 million kiddie meals in a year,” Recto said.
“Kung mayroong manpower limitations, not only in this program but in others, then we should support DSWD in expanding its workforce. If the program is dragged down by complicated procurement rules, then let us liberalize them,” Recto said
But to its credit, the Duterte administration will increase by nearly P1.4 billion the budget of the Department of Education for its “school feeding program,” or from P3.93 billion this year to P5.3 billion in 2018, Recto said.
“If you combine the two, DepEd’s and DSWD’s, there’s a net increase of about P400 million. The combined outlay being P8.72 billion in 2018 compared to P8.36 billion this year,” Recto said.
“Ang ibig sabihin ba nito, ililipat ang malaking pondo sa DepED? Bawas sa DSWD, dagdag sa DepED. If it is, then I have no major issue with this dagdag-bawas formula, but I would insist on keeping the DSWD feeding budget because it is key to the First 1000 Days initiative,” Recto said.
The latter is a program to give critical care in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from the mother’s womb to the child’s second birthday.
The government’s feeding program for children runs on two parallel tracks: DSWD takes care of “severely wasted and underweight” children in daycares or neighborhood play groups, while DepED is in charge of children ages 6 to 11 or those in Grades 1 to 6.
Recto said the twin programs should not be bogged down by red tape.
There should be no repeat of the 2015 debacle, Recto said, when DepED delayed the release of P1.4 billion out of last year’s P2.4 billion in school feeding funds, transferring it to the regions only in Nov. 13, or when 2015 was about to end, thus defeating the program’s aim of a 120-day feeding schedule.
SENATE BILLS/AUTHORED LAWS:
21 JUL 2016: SBN-855: ICT in Education Act of 2016
21 JUL 2016: SBN-812: Teaching Supplies Allowance Act of 2016