WHAT happened to the Cebu City Government’s Accelerated Social Amelioration Program (Asap) fund?
This was the question posed by Councilor Alvin Dizon after learning that the city still has thousands of malnourished children.
In a survey conducted by the National Nutrition Council in 2013, it was reported that 3,359 (2.98 percent) of the 112,245 preschoolers in Cebu City is considered underweight, while 670 are considered severely underweight.
Dizon said he is “disturbed” with the figures.
“The greatest irony here is that we are recognized as the most progressive city in Region 7, but we seriously fell short of one important index of development, which is addressing the right to health of our children,” said the councilor in a privilege speech during the City Council’s Feb. 4 regular session.
He then asked where the City’s Asap fund is since it was created to provide feeding programs and other activities to curb malnutrition in the city.
Last year, the City has set aside P14 million for Asap.
Funds for Asap is taken from the social amelioration tax collected by the City from all business establishments serving liquors. A P10 amelioration tax is collected to every customer in places like night clubs, gambling establishments, disco clubs and bars.
Of the total funds collected for Asap, 55 percent of it will be used for social programs, while 40 percent will be for feeding programs and improvement of barangay health and day care centers.
Dizon also asked why, under this year’s P13.4 billion annual budget, there was only a meager amount set aside for milk feeding, which is only P500,000.
The councilor said the City would even spend millions for the purchase of motor vehicles for the barangays.
“As a local government unit, we must review and evaluate our priorities. The right to health for our children is paramount because these children are the future of our city and country. The state of our children reflects the future of the city. Ang kaugmaon sa atong dakbayan atong makita kung giunsa nato pag-amoma ang atong mga kabataan (We can see the future of our city by how well we nourish our children),” he said.
The council decided to conduct an executive session on March 12 with the Asap Board and the City Treasurer’s Office to determine how the Asap funds were spent.
They also want the Department of Social Welfare and Services, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Nutrition Council and the Cebu City Nutrition Council to shed light on the malnutrition problem in the city.