AN OFFICIAL of the Mandaue City Social Welfare Services (CSWS) has clarified that beneficiaries of the Provincial Capitol’s Sugbo Merkadong Barato (SMB) program where National Food Authority (NFA) rice were sold for only P20 per kilo were pre-verified by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Central Visayas and not by the Mandaue City Government.
This following complaints from some Mandaue City residents on the very limited distribution of the cheap NFA rice.
Mandaue CSWS head Camilo Basaca Jr, said Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, the City Government’s role was only to facilitate the release of the SMB cards to beneficiaries and distribute the rice that can be availed by them using the cards.
Basaca issued the statement after several Mandaue residents complained they were unable to buy the P20 per kilo rice during the SMB's launching in Mandaue on Tuesday, January 16 as they were not on the list of beneficiaries.
The SMB is a program of the Cebu Provincial Government aimed to help fulfill President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s campaign promise during the 2022 elections that he will bring down the price of rice to P20 per kilo if he wins.
Under the program, the Provincial Government allocated P100 million for the purchase of NFA rice to be divided equally among the 51 local government units (LGUs) in Cebu. The LGUs then sell the rice to indigents in their respective localities that were pre-qualified by the DSWD.
SMB cards that are given to beneficiaries are equipped with a QR code to track their rice purchases. Beneficiaries are given a limit in the number of kilos that can be purchased per week.
Basaca explained that screening for qualified SMB card holders was done by the DSWD, while the Provincial Social Welfare Development Office gave the CSWS the SMB cards to distribute.
The DSWD selects beneficiaries that are among the “poorest of the poor,” Basaca added.
Mandaue’s CSWS, he said, received a list of only around 4,100 qualified SMB beneficiaries. Each recipient could buy a maximum of two kilos per week as instructed by the Province.
The Province gave them roughly 1,000 sacks of rice to divide and distribute.
“This is not only in Mandaue. This is done simultaneously with our neighboring cities and municipalities," said Basaca in a mix of Cebuano and English.
Basaca said the SMB stalls at the Mandaue City Hall grounds sell mostly to beneficiaries living in villages within the city proper such as barangays Centro, Guizo, Mantuyong, and Cambaro.
The stalls are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Mondays to Fridays until supplies last.
He said Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes plans to set up SMB stalls in the city’s mountain barangays, such as Casili, Tawason, Canduman, and Cubacub. Mandaue has a total of 27 barangays.
He said Cortes came up with the initiative to help beneficiaries in mountain areas save on transportation costs.