I wasn’t aware of the so-called 4Ps being implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) until I’ve observed the overwhelming influx of mothers, along with their kids, in Bicol Poblacion stores one fine day—and it’s not even a Sunday! Apparently, it’s the encashment day for household beneficiaries of the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program,” or 4Ps as it is sometimes referred to, courtesy of the DSWD.
Fair enough, social assistance, in the form of financial aid, is the primary objective of the program to provide short-term poverty alleviation for families to secure their immediate needs. Short-term poverty alleviation, by no means, should equate to “one-day shopping spree.” Besides, immediate household needs were further specified by the DSWD as health and educational needs of children.
According to the DSWD’s official website, “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a human development program of the national government that invests in the health and education of poor households, particularly of children aged 0-14 years old.”
As it is, nonetheless, a human development program, the 4Ps also aims at providing social development. By securing health and educational needs of children, the State, through the DSWD, hopes to “break intergenerational poverty cycle” in the long run. That is where long-term poverty alleviation comes into play.
Perhaps it’s high time for the State to make the most of population growth by banking on human capital. The Philippines, as a third world country, would be better off treating its people as assets worth the investment, rather than liabilities. After all, human resources building up the workforce make up an essential part of national economic resources.
If the Reproductive Health Bill advocacy slams family growth, the 4Ps seems to extend assistance to huge families with children. Since the program grants PhP300 monthly cash per child plus Php500 household health and nutrition allocation, higher number of children would be equivalent to higher amount of household financial aid. However, the 4Ps does not encourage further child birth as the program shall only last for a period of five years.
In a statement to SecurityMatters, John Carlo Nicanor Tapel, DSWD Municipal Link member, said that the program is likely to encourage families to address health and educational needs of children. He further asserted that household beneficiaries might be delisted once they become self-sufficient, so financial assistance might not necessarily run for five years. Unfortunately, cash grant is non-transferable to a new household beneficiary.
Not all poor households are eligible for enlistment in the 4Ps. Only poor households meeting the standards of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), with children 0-14 years old or with a pregnant woman during the assessment, and amendable to the conditions of the program, are eligible to receive such financial assistance.
How does it make sure that objectives are met?
The 4Ps does not merely provide financial assistance, but particularly secure poor families with conditional cash assistance. Cash allocation shall only be disbursed once conditions for children’s health, educational, and personal well-being have been met.
To promote children’s health, the program requires parents to secure their children aged 0 to 5 years old with “regular preventive check-ups and vaccines,” while children aged 6 to 14 years old with deworming pills two times a year. Promotion of children’s heath also extends to the unborn. No wonder, it requires pregnant mothers to obtain pre- and post-natal health intervention, and seeks for the service of trained health professional upon child birth.
Diseases and malnutrition commonly tag along poverty, haunting innocent children with frail health. Based on the Nutrition Country Profile reported by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “While it was reported that the health status of Filipinos improved in terms of the decrease in the mortality rates of mothers and infants, the rising incidence of infectious diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory diseases contributed to the poor nutritional status of many Filipinos.”
To promote children’s education, the program obligates parents to send their children to school, whether 3 to 5 years old (day care or pre-school) or 6 to 14 years old (elementary and high school) to get an education. Either way, kids should be able to achieve at least 85% school attendance.
In the Filipino Child Policy Brief, “A Glimpse At The School Drop Out Problem,” Aniceto C. Orbeta, Jr. (Senior Research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies) recognized government efforts to promote education by saying that, “The ongoing conditional cash transfer programs which provide cash to poor families if they keep their children in school should be able to make a dent on the dropout problem, particularly for those citing employment or looking for work as a reason.”
Back in July 2010, the United Nations posed a challenge to the Aquino administration to avert the glaring drop-out rate and poverty rate in the Philippines by 2015 in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) plan. In effect, the government heeded to the challenge through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program.
To promote a better family home for children, parents are obliged to attend educational seminars, too. As a matter of fact, Mr. Tapel confirmed the prevalence of family issues, particularly marital issues, which might defeat the ends of the program. That’s why Family Development Session (FDS) shall definitely come in handy.
On September 12-17, 2011, city and municipal link members were trained to conduct FDS. These link members are “contact persons of DSWD to handle, conduct activities, and provide information of the beneficiaries in the local level,” according to DSWD Information Officer Allan O. Lulu in an article posted on the official website of the Philippine Information Agency. Monthly FDS covers an array of family issues such as child development, home development, responsible parenthood, and the like.
Conformity with the conditions laid down by the DSWD is validated through the Compliance Verification System (CVS) equipped with easy-to-follow verification tools online. The CVS happens to be a joint project between the DSWD and the Advisory Committee made up of various government agencies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Health. Further assisted by Internet technology, the DSWD anticipates for efficient and objective assessment of 4Ps’ household beneficiaries.
Although it’s not meant to last forever, there’s no doubt that the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program has helped out many Filipino households. At the moment, I would prefer seeing healthy kids in school rather than finding them working at a very young age out of school. Who knows, there might be another—and even much better—version of the 4Ps in the future.