World Bank Approves a US$600 Million New Project to Help Cushion the Pandemic’s Impact on Poor Households in the Philippines
At least 4 million families are expected to benefit from a new project designed to protect the welfare of low-income households impacted by COVID-19 and enable Government to harness digital tools to transform social protection delivery in the Philippines.
The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors has approved a US$600 million loan for the Philippines Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project to provide continuing support to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and pursue Fast, Innovative, and Responsive Service Transformation (FIRST) for beneficiaries.
“We are pleased to support the Government’s efforts to sustain social protection for the poor and most vulnerable families,” said Ndiamé Diop, World Bank Country Director for Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand. These efforts are critical to ensure that their children can remain in school and stay healthy as the country takes measures to control this pandemic. In these difficult times, cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable indirectly support local economies and boost prospects for recovery.”
In addition, the project will support DSWD’s use of cutting-edge digital technologies and platforms to improve beneficiary experience in receiving transfers from the government, develop more efficient processes and systems, and enhance targeting mechanisms to maximize equity and impact.
“Global experience shows that countries that have effective government-to-persons payments systems and a coherent approach to social protection beneficiary data management have been very effective in quickly and effectively cushioning the impacts of COVID-19 pandemic” Diop added.
The World Bank has been supporting the 4Ps over the last decade. 4Ps provides cash grants to poor families to ensure that children stay healthy and in school, reduce dropout rates and discourage child labor, among other benefits.
Working with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank, the project also seeks to accelerate efforts to modernize the DSWD’s payment delivery systems and promote financial literacy among beneficiaries, accelerating financial inclusion in the process.
Yoonyoung Cho, Senior Economist and Project Task Team Leader said that in addition to 4Ps beneficiaries, modernizing the country’s social protection delivery systems will benefit more people enrolled in other social protection programs implemented by the government now and in the future.
She added that the project will position DSWD to have an even greater impact on alleviating poverty and to respond more effectively to future crises as part of an adaptive social safety net. Key outputs also include a new unified beneficiary database for DSWD programs and integration with the new national ID system (PhilSys) to allow beneficiaries to be verified and enrolled in a timely and reliable manner.
“Shifting to the use of digital platforms and technologies for delivery of social protection programs and services is a high priority agenda of the Government that we are excited to support,” said Yoon. “Together with the PhilSys that Government is already expediting, activities in this project such as digital payments, robust targeting, and beneficiary data management will help make Government’s social protection programs more efficient and adaptive.”
Implemented in 145 cities and 1,483 municipalities of the Philippines, 4Ps has benefitted more than 4 million families (around 20 percent of the country’s population), including 8.7 million children. Since 2008, the country has built on the program to respond better to natural disasters and other shocks.
In response to Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the DSWD provided additional top-up subsidies to 4Ps beneficiaries to mitigate the impact of the calamity. Similarly, during this pandemic, the government was able to quickly deliver social assistance to 4Ps beneficiaries who are among the poorest and most vulnerable in Philippine society.