THE Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) denied reports that it had coerced some of the beneficiaries of the Livelihood Assistance Grant (LAG) in sharing their benefits.
In a statement Tuesday, April 20, Evangeline Feleco, regional director for administration of DSWD-Western Visayas, said they received reports that at least two beneficiaries in Zarraga, Iloilo have been allegedly coerced to set up kiosks.
The DSWD, through the LAG, has released P138.15 million to 13,647 qualified beneficiaries in Western Visayas as of March this year. It was given as recovery interventions for low income families.
Each recipient can receive up to a maximum of P15,000 grant depending on the project and assessment of the livelihood technical working group of the local government unit (LGU).
The DSWD said the families should be the one to identify their means of livelihood.
In Zarraga, Iloilo, the DSWD has released some P4.4 million to 295 recipients.
"In the case of Zarraga beneficiaries, their purpose was for the establishment of the kiosk and for capital assistance as stated in their objective of the project proposal of the local government. A proposal like beneficiaries investing a portion for their own individual livelihood projects and another share for the associations project can be allowed as long as it was indicated in the project proposal whatever earnings will redound to their benefit," said Feleco.
As such, she said the allegations that the DSWD is coercing the beneficiaries to share the assistance they received and to invest in putting up kiosks are not true, stressing that these were agreed upon by the beneficiaries and the LGU.
"The DSWD values the process of empowering the beneficiaries who are forming their association to ensure sustainable gains," she said.
Earlier, Mary Ann Masculino, DSWD regional program coordinator for the Sustainable Livelihood Program, said that the LAG was developed when the Bayanihan Act I was enacted, adding that it is one of the social amelioration program (SAP) interventions of the department.
Under the program, those coming from the informal sector with existing enterprises before the health pandemic are provided with financial assistance to help them come up with an alternative project or use it to augment their capital.
Its implementation is being coordinated with LGUs as recipients are also beneficiaries of SAP.
“They have been established as affected by the pandemic,” Masculino said in an interview.
DSWD data showed that 1,067 beneficiaries in Aklan have availed themselves of the program with P16-million fund that was already disbursed in March.
Also, P57 million has been disbursed to 3,955 beneficiaries in Antique; P810,000 for 67 recipients in Guimaras; P44.34 million for 5,658 in Iloilo; and P20 million for 2,900 recipients in Negros Occidental.
The funds were from the repurposed regular fund of the DSWD last year and the Bayanihan Act I.
Masculino said that since LAG is an outright grant, recipients have no obligation to pay it back to the DSWD. They, however, are expected to liquidate the money that they receive after 40 days to make sure that their grant utilization plan is followed.
Those who already availed themselves of the first batch are no longer qualified to avail of the next round. (Jun Aguirre/With PNA/SunStar Philippines)