SAP EXPANSION. Department of Social Welfare and Development personnel distributes cash assistance under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP) at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Acting presidential spokesperson Martin Andanar on Thursday (March 10, 2022) said he sees the need to expand the SAP to relieve Filipinos from spiraling prices of petroleum products caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. (PNA file photo)

MANILA – Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, acting presidential spokesperson, on Thursday said he sees the need to expand the existing social amelioration program (SAP) to relieve Filipinos from spiraling prices of petroleum products caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

In an interview over DZBB, Andanar said he favors the distribution of a cash subsidy but acknowledged the challenges of generating funds for the program.

“Kung gugustuhin talaga mas gusto natin mayroong ayuda, may SAP lahat (If it were up to me, I favor cash aid, everyone would have SAP),” he said.

The SAP is a monthly cash subsidy given to low-income families whose livelihoods were affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Andanar echoed reservations made by the Department of Finance (DOF) on lawmakers’ calls to suspend fuel excise taxes amid the soaring oil prices.

“Nandoon nga iyong magiging dilemma natin sapagkat kapag tinanggal mo iyong excise tax siyempre maraming pondo ang mawawala doon sa social services sa DSWD [Department of Social Welfare and Development]. So, kaya kailangan talagang balansehin nang husto itong problema at ang solusyon para hindi naman gaanong maaapektuhan din iyong ibang mga services ng ating pamahalaan (That is where our dilemma will be because when you remove your excise tax, of course, a lot of funds will be lost in social services at DSWD. So, we really need to balance this problem and the solution so that our other government services will not be affected as much),” he added.

Earlier, the DOF expressed concern that suspending fuel excise taxes would lead to revenue loss and slow down economic recovery.

Andanar said the government’s economic team will make the final decision on the matter.

“Depende pa rin sa ating economic managers. Hindi naman ako kasama doon sa economic cluster pero logic would tell you that, that saan ka kukuha ng pera (It would still depend on our economic managers. I am not part of the economic cluster but logic would tell you that, where do you get funds)?” he said.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Salceda, chair of the House Committee on Ways and Means, earlier said he will ask the economic managers if the SAP could be expanded to cover public utility vehicles.

On Monday, socioeconomic planning Secretary Karl Chua said the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has proposed raising the fuel subsidy for PUV drivers to PHP5 billion from PHP2.5 billion, to further ease the impact of rising oil prices worsened by the Ukraine-Russia war.

The first tranche was targeted to be distributed in March while the second tranche was targetted in April.

The government is also releasing a similar fuel subsidy to farmers and fisherfolk using fuel-dependent agricultural machinery. (PNA)