By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

ERADICATING HUNGER. Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Edu Punay (right) guests at the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City on Saturday (Oct. 21, 2023). Punay said the government will scale up its food stamp program to 300,000 more food-poor Filipino households by July 2024. (PNA photo by Robert Oswald Alfiler)

MANILA – The Philippine government will scale up its food stamp program (FSP) to 300,000 more food-poor Filipino households by July 2024, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.

At the Saturday News Forum in Quezon City, DSWD Undersecretary Edu Punay said the “Walang Gutom 2027” pilot run for the initial 3,000 beneficiaries will end in May 2024.

After a review in June, the DSWD will fully roll out the program in July.

“Come next year, we’ll have the full implementation of the program, which targets one million households nationwide. When we scale up next year, there will be 300,000 household beneficiaries,” Punay said.

The program will be finally given a working budget from the General Appropriations Act after President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr issued Executive Order 44, which establishes the FSP as a flagship program of the administration.

The projected budget to cover the 300,000 beneficiaries for next year is at PHP6 billion, according to Punay.

“We’ve already met with the Department of Budget and Management and they committed to provide for the financial budgetary requirement of the program,” he said.

“We’re very happy that this will be implemented next year na talagang may working budget na (with a working budget), thanks to the EO 44,” he added.

Under the FPS, a beneficiary family will get an electronic benefit transfer card loaded with PHP3,000 worth of food credits that can be used to purchase a select list of commodities from DSWD-accredited local retailers.

Filipino families tagged as “food-poor” are those belonging to the lowest income bracket, or with a monthly income below PHP8,000.

The DSWD started the pilot test among 100 households in Tondo, Manila and Dapa, Siargao in July. The full-scale pilot implementation will begin in December.

The pilot is funded by the USD3 million (approximately PHP163 million) grant from the Asian Development Bank.

Food inflation

At the House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture and Food chair Rep. Mark Enverga of Quezon City’s First District said his panel would conduct public hearings and consultations with stakeholders to address food inflation.

“Upon the instruction of our Speaker Martin G. Romualdez and in line with the desire of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. to make food products affordable, we will observe and address food inflation,” he said in a statement on Sunday.

Early this year, Enverga’s committee conducted a four-month inquiry into the sudden increase in the price of onions, which skyrocketed to as much as PHP800 a kilo.

Onion prices have since dropped from PHP700 to PHP160 per kilo.

The National Bureau of Investigation has filed charges against three Department of Agriculture (DA) officials and three officers of a cooperative.

DA Assistant Secretary Kristine Evangelista, Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service officer-in-charge Junibert de Sagun and Bureau of Plant Industry Director Gerald Panganiban are facing violations of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Charges of hoarding, falsification and profiteering were also filed against Bonena Multipurpose Cooperative officials Israel Reguyal, Mary Ann dela Rosa and Victor dela Rosa Jimenez. (with reports from Zaldy De Layola/PNA)