THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will pilot test the implementation of the food stamp program in the second half of the year, Secretary Rex Gatchalian said Tuesday, May 24, 2023.

In a press briefing, Gatchalian said the pilot test will cover 3,000 families, then another 300,000 families on the first run seen on the first quarter of 2024, and another 300,000 in the succeeding years, until they reach the one million target.

The DSWD has identified five pilot sites coming from different geopolitical characteristics — one in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Barmm), what used to be a former conflict area; one in geographically isolated regions or provinces; one in urban poor settings; one will be calamity-stricken areas; and one will be a rural poor area.

Gatchalian said they will make sure that the context of the program is designed and suitable for each region.

The Asian Development Bank will provide nearly $3 million for the six-month pilot run of the program.

He said the program is now in its design stage to identify the loopholes and properly fill the gaps.

“We all know that the devil will be in the details and we have hired multiple consultants in the department to take a second look at what’s being designed para may check and balance,” he said.

“We are working with PSA’s [Philippine Statistics Authority] in-house poverty expert who is their Usec — Usec. Dennis Mapa — he is helping us craft the concept there. So, the remaining days of May and June, we will work on designing it. Now, July to December will be the pilot run to vet the (program) properly,” he added.

The food stamp program or the “Walang Gutom 2027” aims to provide electronic benefit transfers that will be loaded with food credits amounting to P3,000 to purchase a select list of food commodities from DSWD accredited local retailers.

It targets the bottom one million households from Listahanan 3 who belong to the food poor criteria as defined by the PSA.

They are those who do not make beyond P8,000 monthly based in PSA gauge.

Gatchalian said the DSWD will continuously monitor and measure the beneficiaries.

He said one of the conditions is for beneficiaries to sign up to Public Employment Service Office and get a certification that they are already part of the workforce “no matter what job it is.”

“It’s conditional… similar to other food stamp programs, there will be a work component. Ang argumento kasi ngayon ‘di ba, ‘pag gutom ang isang indibidwal, hindi siya maka-participate, hindi siya makatrabaho – kulang iyong caloric intake. So kung hindi siya makapagtrabaho, hindi siya produktibong mamamayan ng ating bansa,” said Gatchalian.

The program is in line with President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s administration program to alleviate hunger and poverty among families belonging to the lowest income bracket.

“We believe that this program will properly address the gaps and assist its beneficiaries in attaining the recommended food and energy consumption needed for each member to perform their daily tasks and routines that has direct and indirect contribution to human capitalization and a direct positive impact towards nation-building. In other words, by meeting the daily food requirements of its target beneficiaries, the said program will sufficiently mitigate hunger caused by extreme poverty,” Gatchalian said. (SunStar Philippines)