QUALIFIED beneficiaries of the Capitol’s Sugbo Merkadong Program (SMB) can only purchase 2.5 kilos of rice at P20 per kilo per week instead of five kilos for now.
Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia decided to limit the sale because she is uncertain the National Food Authority (NFA) has enough supply of rice for the program.
In a meeting with city and municipal local social welfare and development officers under the Provincial Government’s jurisdiction on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023, Garcia told them the NFA reminded her of the agency’s dwindling rice supply.
“I will take stock of what is existing karon sa mga LGUs (local government units). I will now have to limit. We can no longer sell five kilos per week kay mahurot nana dayon. We will have to reduce that to two and a half kilos for the time being until we can get more stock,” Garcia said.
NFA only has a stockpile of 3,000 sacks of 50 kilos of rice.
Garcia said these figures will affect the program’s sustainability.
She said she received reports that rice importers may be targeting NFA’s rice supply due to speculations that Capitol is competing with rice retailers.
However, Garcia assured rice importers that the Capitol is not competing with them as the subsidized rice program is controlled and intended only for the “poorest of the poor.”
The governor also temporarily suspended the sale of NFA rice at P20 per kilo at the SMB stalls in all LGUs in the province due to the discrepancies in the number of beneficiaries local city and municipal and social welfare development offices submitted to the Provincial Government, which is much higher than the number on the list of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under its Listahanan program.
Data from the DSWD shows that there are around 400,000 individuals in Cebu Province who are considered “poor.” However, only 199,000 are considered “poorest of the poor.”
“We are only selling this to the ‘poorest of the poor,’” Garcia said.
On Nov. 29, Garcia said the number on the list submitted to the Capitol reached 303,000, prompting her to order a verification and revalidation to make sure it coincides with the DSWD’s number. The revalidation was completed last weekend.
It turned out that some LGUs had been misinformed or misunderstood the set limit of beneficiaries for the discounted rice.
She said it was the fault of the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office for relaying the wrong information with regard to the total number of recipients per locality.
With the revalidation of the list, Garcia said the new QR-coded cards will be distributed by Dec. 11 or Dec. 12 to qualified beneficiaries, signaling the resumption of the selling of the subsidized rice.
During the meeting, she said the printing and lamination of the QR-coded cards should be done within the week.
Meanwhile, the governor called on the National Government to support Capitol’s subsidized rice program by helping the Province look for rice supplies that can be added to the NFA stockpile.
“Para ra ni nila (poorest of the poor), pero unsaon ni nako ug mangayo ko og pagsabot kay walay stock (This is for them, but I can’t accomplish this without stock, so please take that into consideration). I am again calling on the National Government to please help this program for the province of Cebu,” Garcia said.
The Provincial Government has allocated P100 million for the purchase of NFA rice priced at P25 per kilo. It will absorb the loss of P5 for every kilo of NFA rice sold to qualified beneficiaries, which amounts to an initial loss of P20 million from the P100 million budget.
However, this can be another form of assistance to indigent constituents to enable them to afford rice despite the rising cost of basic commodities and stop the mendicancy mentality, Garcia said earlier.
She added that the Provincial Government will recoup its losses through other income-generating programs and projects, which she did not specify.
Apart from the SMB, the Provincial Government also has a province-wide school feeding program, which serves NFA rice to schoolchildren. / EHP / ANV, TPT