The government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) started during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a well-intentioned anti-poverty scheme patterned after models in South America, specifically Mexico and Brazil.
While the 4Ps has indeed provided relief to poor families all over the country, in recent years, there have been indications that the program needs a thorough review especially in its effectiveness in addressing poverty in the countryside.
Also, there were discernible negative effects of the program on productivity in the countryside with families just depending on the financial aid from government.
For so many families, the 4Ps has become the source of everything and the drive to exert extra effort to earn more for the family has dissipated.
In the many sorties I made in the countryside through the Biyaheng Bukid, agriculture stakeholders complain of the lack of farm workers simply because many of them are beneficiaries of the 4Ps.
Former President Arroyo, in explaining why the program was implemented in the first place in the Philippines during her term, said that the original intention of the program when it was started in the late 1990s was to cushion the impact of the Asian Economic Crisis on poor families in the countryside.
“The 4Ps should not be considered as a welfare program,” she told me adding that there should be a graduation scheme where beneficiaries, with the help of the financial aid, would move up to a higher level with livelihood programs.
The worse thing now is that many of the 4Ps beneficiaries have already hocked their ATM cards to loan sharks and usurers who make advance payments.
In many areas, especially in the South, there are reports that local officials have made the 4Ps program as their additional sources of income as they hold on to the cards of the beneficiaries and only give to the poor a fraction of what they are supposed to receive.
The findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) is a wake up call.
The intention of government to help the poor is noble but the program should be reviewed and the leaks and holes plugged.
With a budget of P78-B for 2018, an amount which is P18-B bigger than the budget of the whole Department of Agriculture (DA), the 4Ps program could really provide a huge positive impact in lowering poverty in the countryside.
This money should be used to pumpprime greater productivity rather than encourage mendicancy.