Friday, June 13, 2008

The 500 Pesos Subsidy

It cannot be denied that for a family living on a hand to mouth existence, Five Hundred Pesos will go a long way in helping them survive in these times of crisis. For many of our countrymen, Five Hundred Pesos is equivalent to a lot of blood, sweat and tears spent toiling for a living just to feed the family.

But that incontestible fact should not prevent an objective critique of how the subsidy is implemented by the government.

According to statements by government officials, the subsidies for the estimated two million Meralco consumers in Metro Manila shall be distributed through five branches of Land Bank around the metropolis. It does not take a genius to figure out that the plan is bound to cause a lot of inconvenience to the people, if not chaos.

One of the distribution centers was the Land Bank branch in Batasang Pambansa, as if to show to the congressmen that indeed, the government was helping a lot of people with this dole out. What we saw were people enduring the excruciating heat in lining up outside the bank, waiting for their turn to face one of the four tellers and dswd personnel who were tasked to hand over the 500 pesos upon verification of the claimaint.

There are 2 million estimated beneficiaries. Five distribution centers. You do the math.

The evening news report ( ) showed the result of this foolish idea, which forced people to go out of their way, spending time, money and effort, to suffer such inconvenience.

OF course, it need not be said that the distribution was not completed in one day. There are other days scheduled for the bank distribution, but perhaps realizing the limitations of that method, the DSWD plans to deploy personnel down to the barangays to continue the distribution of 500 pesos.

Anyone who has ever spent time in the grassroots will tell you what will happen when you give dole outs in the field, especially if it involves money. Imagine dropping a piece of candy in the middle of an anthill.

From the outset, the government's distribution plan was obviously a logistical nightmare. While indeed, government will eventually be able to had over the subsidy to the people, the cost of doing so will only highlight the inefficiency of their system and the incompetence of those who thought of it.

In order for the distribution plan to be implemented, government would have to mobilize manpower to do the distribution, secure the distributors and the money, maintain order in the distribution centers, and other measures needed to undertake such an activity. All these translate to expenditures just to carry out the plan.

Never mind if there was no other way to go about it. But as it turns out, there is another way. Common sense will tell you that the easiest way would be to turn over the subsidy to Meralco and have them deduct the amount from the next bill of the consumers. Simple as that. In the age of computerized banking and finance, it will only take minimum effort and a lot of savings to the government instead of what they are doing now.

If they course the subsidies to Meralco, not only would it avoid inconvenience to the public, but it would ensure that only the qualified beneficiaries will receive the subsidy, that the susbidy will really go to the purpose for which it was given, and it would be much, much easier to implement.

But it turns out that the government officials handling this are not entirely ignorant to such an idea. In the provinces, where the other 2 million of the 4 million target beneficiaries are located, the government intends to implement the subsidy through the electric cooperatives, so that the subsidies will just be credited to the accounts of the consumers. No distribution centers, no lining up.

In a news article, DSWD Secretary Cabral was quoted, "Pinag-uusapan namin ngayon ng NEA kung ano ang pinakamahusay na mekanismo para makarating itong subsidy na ito sa mga tao ng hindi na sila naiistorbo…Isang paraan ay ike-credit ito sa account nila, dun sa mga kooperatiba at private distribution units at babawas na lang doon iyung kanilang electric bill."

I'm dumbfounded. While they are considering this scheme for the distribution of the subsidies in the provinces, where they will have to deal with dozens of electric cooperatives and private distribution units which service the estimated 2 million electricity consumers in the provinces, they did not think about doing the same with Meralco, the lone distributor of electricity to the estimated 2 million consumers in Metro Manila.

It crossed their minds to ensure that the consumers in the provinces will not be inconvenienced, yet they inflicted on the Metro Manila consumers the agony of lining up in the inefficient distribution centers in the metropolis. I can only gnash my teeth....

Well, the pundit in me sees one thing----it's political.

The subsidy itself is political. It's not a solution to the rising cost of electricity, it's just a reaction to the situation; a situation where people are straining under the weight of economic burden, and may just cling to those who offer salvation from the government.

The method of distribution is politically tainted. They avoided coursing the subsidy through Meralco because right now, Meralco is under siege by the administration's allies. They don't want the company to be part of anything that would earn the public's appreciation.

The government doesn't care if the power subsidy goes to pay the electric bill of the so-called life-line consumers. In a radio interview, the DSWD secretary herself said they don't care where the money will be spent and they won't track where the money goes. She said their only concern is to hand over the 500 pesos to those claiming it.

Let's just hope and pray that the poeple who earned the subsidy will indeed spend it for the purpose it was meant to be, because if government doesn't care, then the people will really need our prayers and divine intervention.


Anonymous said...

there was a line so long that it went almost a block or more in Landbank near our city hall.

It was sad seeing our people this way.

I wish we could all go back to the days when rice was so inexpensive that we have to sell it outside our country to make it profitable. said...

It amazes me how the government, in it's effort to serve their country and it's people, has indeed figured out a way to make it as inconvenient as possible and at the same time inflicting as much torture and sufferring in order for us to receive a benefit to alleviate these hard times. Mind you, it shows how much this benefit has reached the millions of people that line up to receive this Php 500.00, inspite of the fact they have to take the day off from work, because they will have to be in line at 12:00 midnight to be able to get this 500.00 at approximately 10:00 AM the next morning, and i emphasize, approximately. so maybe, it does not surprise me that these hard times are indeed hard times, since you will, in the long run, end up losing more than 500.00 to make 500.00. It's 6:00 AM, Monday, June 29, 2008. I just got home from observing the process in dasmarinas, cavite, landbank branch hoping that I would be able to get in line and spoke with the people in line. the person in front of the line, was there at 8:30 pm, Sunday, June 28, 2008. I went further down the line and spoke with the others and some attempted to sell me their spot for 100.00 and I would have been able to collect my 500.00 by 12:oo noon. It was sad to see the people lining up to get 500.00 which would have gone a long way towards helping them, but may have indeed caused them more misery than the 500.00 was worth. It is indeed pitiful that the people that need the most help are the ones that are most helpless during these times. I could have used the extra 500.00 towards my electric bill, but figured, they probably need it more than i do and I was not in the mood to be tortured and inconvenienced by a government I am paying my taxes to for a mere 500.00, for what it's worth. would you be tortured and inconvenienced for 500.00 pesos? i know a lot of people that would, but then again, maybe they have no choice.

cesar said...