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League of Provinces defends LGUs from slow distribution of COVID-19 aid

The League of the Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) on Thursday defended local government units (LGUs) from the slow distribution of social amelioration aid.

LPP president and Marinduque Governor Presbitero Velasco Jr. told GMA News Online that the seven-day deadline given to the local government units to come up with the list of beneficiaries was short.

“Hindi naman talaga mabe-blame 'yung barangay and municipal officials kasi ginagawa naman po nila 'yung magagawa nila. At ang nakalagay daw po sa circular, seven days kailangan maibigay na,” he said.

“Pero sa hirap ng pinapagawa  at maraming nagke-claim at marami pong iba ibang klaseng tao na nakapaloob sa informal economy workers at vulnerable sectors ay may katagalan po talaga,” he added.

Eighteen million families were intended to receive financial assistance under the government's social amelioration program. However, the Department of Finance said the number was based on the Department of Social Welfare Development's 2015 data.

Velasco said it is a big problem if the fund is not enough considering that the basis of the P100 billion budget for 18 million households for the social amelioration program was the census from 2015.

“Five years ago na po ‘yun, marami po sigurong nadagdag na families kaya nakikita po ng mga  barangay, municipal officials  na nag-i-implement ay  malamang po kulang talaga ‘yung pera sa bawat munisipyo,” he said.

"Kung kulang ang pera, kailangan pang ayusin kung sino ang bibigyan," he added.

He also said the only available records from LGUs were lists of 4Ps beneficiaries, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and indigents in their respective areas.

He pointed out the target recipients of COVID-19 aid, especially the informal economy workers, do not all belong to the lists already consolidated by the LGUs.

“Noong in-analyze namin itong target beneficiaries under Memorandum Circular No. 4 (of DSWD), marami pong mga kasama sa coverage na wala naman pong lista sa municipal at barangay goverents,” Velasco said.

“Doon tayo siguro nagkakaroon ng problema sa pagpapalista,” he added.

Citing the DSWD memorandum circular, Velasco said the program only includes beneficiaries of 4Ps, informal economy workers, and other households in vulnerable sectors.

He said informal workers that were identified in the order were occasional workers, home workers, house helpers, drivers, micro and small entrepreneurs, sole earners in a family, and farmers who are not covered by the Department of Agriculture’s aid.

“Malawak po ‘yung coverage e.  Marami pong target beneficiary kaya medyo magtatagal po talaga itong paglilista,” he said.

If the DSWD already had a version of their list of beneficiaries, Velasco suggested that the department should use that list already.

The LPP leader also said the national government is asking the local officials to sign a document transferring the responsibility over the fund.

“Nag-aalala na ‘yung ibang municipal mayors  na kung kukunin nila ‘yung pera  tapos sila na po ‘yung responsible  sa pagbibigay, naiisip nila baka kulang nga po ‘yung  pondo na ibaba sa kanila,” Velasco said.

“Malaki-laki rin po, mga ilang milyon. Baka sila raw po ang masisisi  ng mga tao na hindi nakasama sa lista. Nagkakaroon po ng agam-agam,” he added.

Velasco noted that provincial governments actually have no participation in the distribution of the COVID-19 aid. However, he said these were the concerns that provincial leaders received from local chief executives about the matter.

Department of Social Welfare and Development Rolando Bautista on Wednesday night said the lack of adequate information from the LGUs slowed down the distribution of the aid for the households affected by the COVID-19.

Bautista said the DSWD expected that the LGUs already have the profile, names, work, and other livelihood activities of their constituents.

Meanwhile, Bayan Muna party-list on Thursday claimed that the Duterte administration has unfairly set up local government units to be eventually blamed for the supposedly slow response of the national government on the COVID-19 emergency.

"It seems that the Duterte administration is unfairly placing the already overwhelmed local government units to be blamed with the current slow and inadequate efforts to stop the COVID-19 pandemic," Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said in a statement.

He said it was the national government who committed the blunder when it did not make decisive acts when the first cases of COVID-19 in the country were detected.

"They wasted a month in dilly dallying and now it is the LGUs who are earning the ire of the populace due to the slow or none delivery of relief goods and favoritism," he said.—Erwin Colcol/AOL, GMA News