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Sec. Gatchalian: Food stamp program may start in early 2024

Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Rex Gatchalian said on Tuesday that the food stamp program of the administration could run in the first quarter of 2024.

Dubbed as the "Walang Gutom 2027: Food Stamp Program," the project aims to provide assistance to targeted households to address involuntary hunger in the country.

"Mayroon na tayong first draft ng design and we will spend the remaining months ng May and June in the design stage... we have hired multiple consultants in the department to take a second look on what's being designed," Gatchalian said.

"We have to work with the economic team on trying to package the economic side of the financing side of it. Hopefully next year we get to do the run, the actual run, first quarter of next year," he added.

The DSWD said it will provide "electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards" that will be loaded with food credits amounting to P3,000 per month to purchase a select list of food commodities from the DSWD registered or accredited local retailers.

Gatchalian said digital cards would be used in the program, which will be loaded with "food equivalent."

"Baka iniisip natin these are like your manual food stamps na manu-mano – no more. We’re working with the WFP on a digital platform wherein they get tap cards," he added.

He said the DSWD would work with the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to create the food baskets, which will always include 50% carbohydrates, 30% protein, 20% fats.

The agency targets the bottom one million households from the Listahanan 3 who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Gatchalian said at this point, the agency is still on the "design and pilot" stage.

"In every large-scale program, you don't want to launch it without studying it and going through the details. They have identified five pilot sites coming from different geopolitical characteristics. Mayroon tayo in the BARMM area, what used to be a conflict area, two, geographically isolated regions or provinces; three, in urban poor settings; four will be calamity-driven stricken area; and the fifth will be rural poor," Gatchalian said.

Asked about the funding, Gatchalian said the Asian Development Program would provide $3 million for the pilot run of the project.

"It's still in the design stage because what's happening right now is we're working with the World Food Program who has vast technical expertise when it comes to running food stamps worldwide," Gatchalian said.

"The ADB was kind enough to provide close to $3 million for the six months pilot that will run in the middle part of this year towards the latter part of this year," he added. 

The DSWD said the estimated budget needed was $40 billion for the total run of the project, including administrative costs.

"That's the estimate of the department but when you run it on the design stage, you can see saan pa magtrim left and right," Gatchalian said. 

The DSWD chief also said the agency would talk to the country's finance managers to discuss the program. 

 Gatchalian said other countries that enforce this program are the United States, Vietnam and Mongolia. —VAL, GMA Integrated News