Saying that cash should get into the hands of the poor at once, Sen. Francis Pangilinan made a pitch to use telecommunication companies for mobile money transfers in distributing assistance amid the Covid-19 crisis.
In a letter to Department of Health secretary Francisco Duque, chair of the Inter Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, Pangilinan recommended that the IATF “tap the services of telecommunication companies (telcos) that offer mobile money transfers to provide a one-time cash assistance in geographic pockets of poverty.”
In this time of pandemic that requires physical distancing, Pangilinan said that digital cash transfers have become widely used social assistance response for better, quicker cash payments.
“We understand the difficulties the government is facing in the implementation of the emergency subsidy program. This is our suggestion of an alternative ways for the assistance to quickly reach the poor and hungry,” he said.
In carrying this out, Pangilinan said these steps may be considered:
- Government may ask all telcos to provide a list of phone numbers that were in the geographic pockets of poverty covered by ECQ a day before (X-1). Telcos would have information about whom to exclude (e.g., postpaid plan holders) or include (e.g., by looking at average daily load and consumption monthly.)
- Announce the policy on day X.
- On day X, use existing mobile money transfer options to send cash to each identified phone number (e.g., via G-Cash, Smart Padala, etc.).
- Recipients will need to claim the cash in telco-authorized shops that are already present in the communities. Telcos and government must be prepared with the cash and measures to ensure physical distancing.
- Telcos will collect the names and amounts provided, then submit the list to government for auditing purposes.
Pangilinan said that as one-time transfer, the proposed system would help deal with the poor’s most pressing needs and could buy the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Local Government Units (LGUs) time to come up with a Memorandum of Agreement and lists needed to roll out the assistance.
“Hindi perpekto ang sistemang ito — ang ilang pamilya ay maaaring walang telepono o ilang pamilya ay merong dalawang numero ng telepono — pero habang tumatagal ang paglabas ng listahan ng bibigyan ng ayuda, lalong dumadami ang nagugutom. Baka pwedeng pag-aralan ang ating suggestion,” he said.