By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos
MANILA – About 1 million beneficiaries are expected to benefit from the “Walang Gutom 2027” program, an initiative aimed at improving the access of food-poor families to nutritious foods, Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian said Tuesday.
In a Palace press briefing, Gatchalian said the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) new food stamp program aims to assist the “bottom” 1 million households who belong to the lowest income bracket or those who “do not make beyond PHP8,000” monthly income.
Gatchalian said the program seeks to provide electronic benefit transfers that would be loaded with food credits amounting to PHP3,000 to enable the targeted beneficiaries to purchase a select list of food commodities from DSWD-accredited local retailers.
“The ‘Walang Gutom 2027’ intends to target the bottom 1 million households from Listahanan 3 who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the Philippine Statistics Authority,” he said.
“We believe that this program will properly address the gaps and assist its beneficiaries in attaining the recommended food and energy consumption needed for each member to perform their daily tasks and routines that has direct and indirect contribution to human capitalization and a direct positive impact towards nation-building.”
Still in ‘design stage’
Gatchalian, however, clarified that the food stamp program is still “in the design stage” until June.
He said the DSWD is currently working with the United Nations’ World Food Program to seek its “vast technical expertise” when it comes to running food stamp programs worldwide.
“As we speak right now, mayroon na tayong (we already have the) first draft ng (of the) design and we will spend the remaining months of May and June in the design stage,” Gatchalian said, noting that multiple consultants in the DSWD have been hired “to take a second look at what is being designed.”
The pilot test for five identified areas will be conducted from July to December this year, he said, adding that it would be “fully funded” by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through grants amounting to USD3 million.
The five pilot sites, Gatchalian said, include the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; the geographically isolated regions or provinces; urban poor settings; calamity-stricken areas; and the rural poor.
“We have to make sure that iyong konteksto ng programa (the context of the program) will be designed na naaangkop sa bawat lugar kasi (to suit each identified area because) what might work for one may not work for the other,” he said.
“But the general framework should be the same – access to nutritious, delicious, and affordable food for every single Filipino family. So, the remainder part of the six months fully funded by grants from the ADB that’s why the President opened it yesterday in ADB and we are thankful, the DSWD is very thankful to the technical support and grant support that the ADB has extended to us.”
Gatchalian said the actual implementation of “Walang Gutom 2027” would begin by the first quarter of 2024.
“Hopefully, next year we get to do the run, the actual run – early part, first quarter of next year. But we have to point out that we will not also do it simultaneous 1 million. That’s trouble waiting to happen,” he said.
“We have to do it in a progressive manner. We have to do the pilot at 3,000 families; 300,000 hopefully next year sa first run; another 300,000 right after and then hopefully reach the magic number of 1 million on the succeeding year.”
Gatchalian expressed hope that the food stamp program would help the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. attain its goal of combatting hunger and achieving food security toward the realization of a zero-hunger Philippines.
“We want it to be the President’s legacy that right before he steps out of office, wala nang Pilipinong gutom (no Filipino is hungry),” he said. (PNA)