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  • Writer's pictureMelo Acuna

Additional US$600 million for the Philippines

World Bank approves US$600 million to assist poor households in the Philippines

MANILA – The World Bank has approved a US$ 600 million loan to help at least 4 million families from the latest project to protect the welfare of low-income households affected by COVId-19 pandemic and assist the government to use digital tools to transform social protection delivery in the Philippines.

In a statement from Washington, D.C., it was learned the Board of Executive Directors approved the US$600 million loan for the Philippines Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project to provide continuing support to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and pursue Fast, Innovative, and Responsive Service Transformation (FIRST) for beneficiaries.

“We are pleased to support the Government’s efforts to sustain social protection for the poor and most vulnerable families,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. He added these efforts are critical to ensure that children can remain in school and stay healthy as the country takes measures to control this pandemic. During these difficult times, cash transfers for the poor and vulnerable indirectly support local economies and boost prospects for recovery.

The project will further support the DSWD’s use of cutting-edge digital technologies and platforms to improve beneficiary experience in receiving transfers from the government, develop more efficient processes and systems, as well as enhance targeting mechanisms to maximize equity and impact.

“Global experience shows that countries that have effective government-to-persons payments systems and a coherent approach to social protection beneficiary data management have been very effective in quickly and effectively cushioning the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic,” Diop further said.

The World Bank has been supporting the 4Ps over the last ten years. 4Ps provides cash grants to poor families to ensure that children stay healthy and in school and reduce dropout rates and discourage child labour, among other benefits.

In coordination with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the World Bank project also hopes to accelerate efforts to modernize the DSWD’s payment delivery systems and promote financial literacy among beneficiaries, accelerating financial inclusion in the process.

According to Yoonyoung Cho, Senior Economist and Project Task Team Leader, in addition to 4Ps beneficiaries, modernizing the country’s social protection delivery systems will benefit more people enrolled in other social protection programs implemented by the government now and in the near future.

She added the project will position DSWD to have an even greater impact on alleviating poverty and to respond more effectively to future crises as part of an adaptive social safety net. In the same statement, it was learned key outputs also include a new unified beneficiary database for DSWD programs and integration with the new national ID system (PhilSys) to allow beneficiaries to be verified and enrolled in a timely and reliable manner.

“Shifting to the use of digital platforms and technologies for delivery of social protection programs and services is a high priority agenda of the Government that we are excited to support,” Ms. Yoon added. She explained together with PhilSys, the Philippine Government is already expediting activities in this project such as digital payments, robust targeting and beneficiary data management will help make the government’s social protection programs more efficient and adaptive.

The program is being implemented in 145 cities and 1,483 municipalities across the Philippines. 4Ps has benefitted more than four million families or about 20 percent of the country’s population which include 8.7 million children. From 2008, the country has built on the program to respond better to natural disasters and other shocks. (Melo M. Acuña)

World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand Ndiamé Diop. (World Bank File Photo)

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