PNA file photo

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte is expecting local government officials to give their “best efforts” in ensuring the speedy distribution of cash assistance to families in NCR Plus (Metro Manila, Cavite, Laguna, Bulacan, and Rizal) which were recently under a two-week enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this remark after Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. sought an extension in the distribution of emergency subsidy after the quarantine status in NCR Plus was downgraded to modified ECQ (MECQ) from April 12 to 30.

Abalos said he would write a letter to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) seeking more time to distribute assistance to qualified beneficiaries.

“Susulat nga kami sa DILG in the next few days para humingi po ng palugit hinggil po rito (We will write to the DILG in the next few days to seek for an extension),” he said in a virtual presser.

Abalos said the 15-day timeline for distributing assistance was too short especially since local governments were also trying to avoid beneficiaries from gathering in one area as a precaution against Covid-19.

“Sa obserbasyon po namin talagang mahihirapan na matapos iyong sinasabing 15 days kasi we also have to balance eh. Kung bibilisan mo baka magsiksikan po ang tao, talagang nandoon po iyong—kinakailangan ibinabahay-bahay mo iyan eh pero kung ibabahay-bahay mo naman, hahaba naman ang panahon (Our observation is that it would be difficult to finish the 15-day distribution because we also have to balance. If we hurry, people might crowd together—we need to go house to house but if we go house to house, it will take more time),” he added.

Roque acknowledged Abalos’ efforts to speed up the distribution process while maintaining physical distancing.

“Sa panig naman po ng Presidente, ang hinihingi lang niya ay best effort at naiintindihan naman po ng Presidente na mayroong pandemya at kinakailangan ma-avoid natin, maiwasan iyong pagtipun-tipon (On the part of the President, he is only asking for best effort and he understands that there is a pandemic and that we need to avoid gatherings),” he said.

However, he emphasized the need to provide assistance to beneficiaries at the soonest possible time.

“So wala naman pong magiging problema pero ang pakiusap na rin ay sa lalong mabilis na panahon eh sana po ma-distribute (So there’s no problem but our appeal is that the assistance would be distributed as soon as possible),” he added.

Almost 23 million beneficiaries from low-income households in the National Capital Region (NCR) Plus are expected to benefit from the government's social amelioration program.

Each qualified resident may receive cash or in-kind assistance of PHP1,000 each or up to a maximum of PHP4,000 for a family. (PNA)