Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy Taguiwalo today issued a comment regarding the recent  editorial of the People’s Journal (dated August 14, 2016, titled  “A Bottomless Pit) criticizing the program began by the previous administration called the Informal Settler Families (ISF) Program or “Oplan Likas” or Lumikas para Iwas Kalamidad at Sakit.

The People’s Journal argued that the efforts of the government to provide funds to Filipinos who live in unsafe areas so they can transfer somewhere else safer. It argued that the program contributed to an “endless cycle of government dependency”.

As one of the implementing agencies of the program, DSWD is tasked to validate and assess the beneficiaries of the program, and to disburse the Interim Shelter Fund worth P18,000 to each of the family-beneficiaries which they can use to find safe residency and livelihood to support their families.

The DILG appropriated a total of P509,606,000 for the Interim Shelter Fund and downloaded the fund to DSWD for the disbursement of the financial assistance to beneficiaries and for administrative operations.

Secretary Taguiwalo said that the P18,000 per family that the government provided urban poor residents living in danger zones  is not an exorbitant amount considering how expensive it is to rent houses much less to own one. She said giving funds to   Filipinos affected by demolitions and relocation programs  is the least the government can do to help them. She said that it was the responsibility of government to ensure that its citizens live in danger-free areas.

“But it has to be said that Filipinos would not have to leave their original communities to find work in the cities of the National Capital Region (NCR) if they had sufficient means of livelihood in the provinces. Many informal settlers are originally farmers, farmworkers and fisherfolk from the poorest provinces such as Bicol and Samar, and they took their chances to move to the NCR in the hopes of finding better employment and means of livelihood there. They end up moving in empty government lots or establishing makeshift houses in communities in danger zones in near waterways and canals because they could not afford to pay rent for houses or apartments,” she said.

The recently conducted nationwide assessment under the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS PR) showed that there are 5.1 million poor households with the following conditions: Fisherfolk, farmers, and foresters comprise about 2.8 million of 17.9 percent of the 15.5 million targeted poor individuals belonging to the labor force or those aged 15 years old and above. The majority of (53 percent or 8.2 million) reported having no occupation at the time of the assessment. In the meantime, eight out of 10 and 76.6 percent of the targeted poor households reside in rural areas, while two out 10 or 23.4 percent live.

“There will be no need for programs such Oplan Likas if there were many viable and secure employment opportunities in the provinces. For instance, if there was genuine agrarian reform, our impoverished farmers would have the means to produce food crops such as rice not only to   for their own consumption but also to sell for good prices,” she said. “Solve the problem of landlessness, the cycle of poverty and exploitation it creates, and the lack of basic support services for our farmers and there will be less poor migration from the provinces to the cities.” #