Marcos seeks more cash aid for Filipinos amid spiraling prices

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PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday asked the Social Welfare department to continue giving cash aid to poor Filipinos who are not covered by lower income tax rates.

“Continue calibrating the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and strengthening the government’s social protection initiatives,” he told officials during its anniversary. He said the program has proven to be effective in meeting the health needs of households and children’s education.

“I call upon the department to continue to implement the unconditional cash transfer program to provide cash grants to poor households and individuals who do not benefit from the lower income tax rates but are adversely affected by rising prices,” he added.

Mr. Marcos also asked the agency, which celebrated its 72nd anniversary, to enhance its social pension program for poor senior citizens.

The department was criticized last year after its education assistance program was marred by chaos after it failed to coordinate with local governments in distributing the aid.

The government targets to bring the poverty incidence to 9% by the end of Mr. Marcos’ six-year term. This target was announced in July, months before inflation hit 8.1% in December — the fastest since November 2008.

Inflation averaged 5.8% last year, above the Philippine central bank’s 2-4% goal

Economists have been calling on the government to give more aid to vulnerable sectors as the country faces a bleak economic outlook. State economic planners have warned against increased aid given the government’s ballooning debt. 

Also on Tuesday, Mr. Marcos appointed Rexlon T. Gatchalian, a former legislator and mayor of Valenzuela City, Social Welfare secretary, according to the presidential palace.

Mr. Gatchalian took his oath in Malacañang, the Presidential Communications Office said in a Facebook post on Tuesday night.

Mr. Gatchalian,44, is a brother of Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the Senate education committee, and Wesley T. Gatchalian, who is the mayor of Valenzuela City.

The family backed Mr. Marcos’ presidential run in May.

Meanwhile, the president asked legislators to allot funding that would help people pay interest on government housing units.

“The government is committed to secure the needed housing interest support for 2023,” he said. “I now call… on Congress for your support… including housing interest support as part of the regular appropriations for the succeeding years,” he told Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, who was present at the event. — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza