MANILA — A senator on Friday advised the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to be ready to explain why the agency’s proposed 2018 budget for its feeding program was slashed by as much as PHP1 billion.
DSWD’s proposed 2018 budget is PHP137.5 billion, which is PHP9.5 billion higher than its budget this year. However, the agency’s “supplementary feeding” program budget will be cut to PHP3.42 billion from the current PHP4.42 billion.
“Is it a case of budgetary indigestion of the DSWD having too much on its plate? Is it due to the failure of local governments to submit financial reports? Whatever the reasons, for the sake of the children, let’s find ways to improve budget absorption,” Recto said in a statement.
Recto said the DSWD’s feeding program, which provides one nutritious meal a day for 120 days to 1.746 million three- to five-year-olds in poor communities, should be “improved.”
“If there are manpower limitations, not only in this program but in others, then we should support DSWD in expanding its workforce. If the program is dragged down by complicated procurement rules, then let us liberalize them,” Recto said.
He expressed optimism that the Senate and the executive branch can explore ways on how to improve the implementation of this program “to include, for example, joint ventures with social action arms of corporations, aid agencies, and other non-profits.”
The senator said this intervention is necessary especially since malnutrition kills 95 children a day, or 35,000 a year in the Philippines, and when one out of four children under the age of five is underweight, and three in 10 are stunted.
Meanwhile, Recto welcomed the government’s move to increase the proposed 2018 budget for the feeding program of the Department of Education (DepEd) which will be increased to PHP5.3 billion, or PHP1.4 billion higher than the budget this year.
Recto said that if the drop in DSWD’s feeding program budget meant that the higher funds were transferred to the DepEd’s feeding program budget then he had no major issue, after all.
“If it is, then I have no major issue with this dagdag-bawas (add-subtract) formula, but I would insist on keeping the DSWD feeding budget because it is key to the First 1,000 Days initiative,” he added.
The senator explained that if the budget for both feeding programs is combined, there would be a net increase of about PHP400 million.
“The combined outlay being PHP8.72 billion in 2018 compared to PHP8.36 billion this year,” Recto said.
The government’s feeding program for children runs on two parallel tracks: DSWD takes care of “severely wasted and underweight” children in daycares or neighborhood play groups, while DepEd is in charge of children aged six to 11 or those in Grades 1 to 6. (PNA)