Saturday, July 11, 2015

My Personal Encounter with DSWD's Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and Sustainable Livelihood Projects

It is so easy to find fault in our government. After all, with all those negative news reports about corrupt officials and worthless projects that waste the taxpayers' hard-earned money, we tend to dismiss the thought that there may be government-initiated activities that do work and are helpful to Filipinos.

examples of structures some poor Filipino families call home
When I was asked to join a few members of the media, civic society organizations, and the academe on a Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Learning Visit in the provinces of Batangas and Quezon, I immediately said yes because I wanted to see my for myself what their programs are all about.

a briefing on our learning visit
The program officers of DSWD Region IV-A explained to us that their objective is for us to witness personally what goes on in the project areas. "Rather than telling you about them, we'd rather you visit the sites and talk to the direct beneficiaries so you'd learn that positive changes are actually happening in peoples' lives with the help of the government," they said. I found that a very reasonable explanation.

an enumerator asking a potential beneficiary initial questions

We first went to Brgy. Loob, Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas where we witnessed enumerators doing a Listahan Household Assessment. The Listahan, formerly the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), is an information management system that identifies who and where the poor are in the country. The system makes available to national government agencies and other social protection stakeholders a database of poor families as reference in identifying potential beneficiaries of social protection programs. 

full-length interviews are done inside the beneficiaries' homes 
We were briefed that household assessments are done without notice to households so that family members won't have time to hide appliances that may indicate they don't need financial assistance. However, we were also told that material things are not the only factors to be considered whether a family is eligible for the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or not.

narrow trails leading to remote clusters of houses 
Pantawid invests in the human capital through provision of conditional grants to qualified poor families in support for the needs on health, nutrition, and education of children age zero to 18. A family is given P300/child/month (elementary student) and/or P500/child/month (high school student) for a maximum of three kids. They also get a health grant of P500/family/month. 

our group of enthusiastic learners in Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas
By now, you must be thinking (as I used to) that these are dole-outs and would only encourage laziness. But, like I wrote in the previous paragraph, the money given are conditional grants, meaning there are rules to be followed before a family gets to receive the money. For instance, children should have 85% school attendance per month. In addition, they have to undergo a monthly checkup and deworming at the health center to help ensure no absences due to health reasons.

a Family Development Session in Sitio Mambog 
Parents, on the other hand, have to attend monthly Family Development Sessions (FDS) where resource speakers teach them about children's rights, livelihood, budgeting, etc. That afternoon, we went to Sitio Mambog, Cuenca, Batangas where we joined an FDS tackling the topic Pagiging Magulang at Pagiging Responsableng Magulang (Parenting vs. Responsible Parenting). Pastor Louie, a volunteer resource person, engaged the parents with humorous stories in between his pointers. Even we, guests, learned a new thing or two.

one of the mothers sharing what she learned in this month's FDS
Oh, and we also made a courtesy call at the Cuenca Municipal Hall where Mayor Celerino A. Endaya explained to us how they are focusing on social services vs. infrastructure programs because, according to him, it's in the latter where there are corruption and kickbacks. Their Capital Assistance Program (CAP) has earned them a national award because they were able to inculcate in their constituents that they have to pay back what they borrow. 

Cuenca, Batangas' Municipal Hall
"We have 100% rollback of payments. Even if they get delayed sometimes, the people are able to pay. Kung nakakabayad ka sa five-six, bakit sa gobyerno, hindi pwede?" he reasoned. "We give them a series of trainings and teach them how to make project proposals before they can be given a CAP." At Cuence, Mayor Endaya affirms that they are successful when it comes to reducing poverty level as well as crime rate. "Dito, natatalo namin ang kahirapan." 

courtesy call with Mayor Celerino Endaya
Later, we visited a Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP) meeting at Brgy. Dita, Cuenca, Batangas. It's very inspiring to hear stories of members who were able to grow micro-enterprises such as sari-sari stores and piggeries, the capitals of which were partly funded by the SLP. Some of them have also availed loans for home improvement and are diligently paying their dues. They know that having a good track record would be very helpful when they need more assistance in the future. 

a Sustainable Livelihood Program meeting
The SLP is a community-based capacity building program that seeks to improve the socio-economic status of program participants. It is implemented through the Community-Driven Enterprise Development (CDED) approach, which equips the program participants to actively contribute production and labor markets by making use of available resources and accessible markets. 

an SLP beneficiary sharing her success story
Mrs. Fe Malihan, a 4P beneficiary, shared how she's on her second level loan already and is now paying off P30,000 little by little. Mrs. Lilia Maralit, on the other hand, shared how grateful she is that her kids are now able to go to school and that she can buy shoes for them. Aside from the monetary benefits, she appreciates the learnings, such as gardening, she gets from the seminars.
another Pantawid beneficiary sharing how her SLP loan has helped her family
I'd say the most inspiring story we heard was that of Mrs. Remedios Magadia, who has a small sewing business. She availed of a level two house improvement loan that's payable in two to four years without interest. She told us they have to submit proposals (SLP teaches them how to do that) to prove that their personal projects are viable. 

Nanay Remedios does her sewing business at home
We accompanied Nanay Remedios back to their house, a simple structure she proudly calls home because, according to her, it used to be just patches of wood and roofing. She relayed to us how her son got sick, was bedridden, and eventually died in 2004 and they had to scramble for money to pay for medical bills. At the time, she was the treasurer of their group and had P54,000 cash on hand. Nanay Remedios told us that she never touched the money because she believes trust is something you will not gain back once lost. I deeply appreciate that reminder and lesson from someone who is content living a sometimes hard, but simple life.  

sometimes, you just have to look up and be thankful for all the blessings you've been given
These are just some of the eye-openers I personally encountered during the first day of our Learning Visit. I'll write more about the other things I learned and the inspiring people I met during the second day in another blog post. Thanks for reading! I hope you also learned something from reading this particular entry.

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