DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian (File photo)

MANILA – Social Welfare and Development Secretary Rex Gatchalian on Friday emphasized that the main thrust of his leadership is geared on the country’s “fight against hunger and poverty” as he expressed readiness to face the country’s social problems.

In a press conference held at the DSWD central office in Quezon City, Gatchalian outlined his work plan and strategy to be used in addressing the services and assistance needed by the poor and vulnerable sector in general, and affected families during and after calamities in particular.

First, he vowed to bring back the “food stub” system, aside from livelihood assistance for qualified families and individuals as hunger-mitigating measure.

To ensure that only deserving and eligible families and individuals will benefit from various DSWD aid and assistance programs, he said he would prioritize the cleansing of the list of the beneficiaries’ database.

“Wala naman akong intensyon na baguhin ang listahan. Napansin ko lang po na noong mayor pa ako ng Valenzuela, pabago-bago ang database dahil sa dami sources, at minsan pwede tayong maligaw (I don’t have any intention to change the list of beneficiaries. But when I was still the mayor of Valenzuela, I noticed that the database kept on changing due to so many sources, which could be misleading sometimes),” Gatchalian said.

He added that he only wishes to identify who really are in dire need of the DSWD’s aid or assistance, especially in the implementation of the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” (4Ps) and other financial grants of the government.

Towards this end, the new DSWD chief said would seek the assistance of experts from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) and Social Weather Stations (SWS), among others.

A fierce advocate of quality education, Gatchalian also committed to address illiteracy.

While the DSWD already had lots of programs toward helping reduce illiteracy, he said this remains to be a big problem among the poor and vulnerable sector, and he hopes to do something about the issue.

The DSWD secretary also reiterated what he said during a briefing with his undersecretaries and other officials, that he would pursue “setting up logistics networks and additional warehouses for relief goods and family food packs in strategic locations in the country” in order to provide immediate and prompt assistance to the families that will be affected by disasters and calamities.

The former lawmaker also wanted to streamline or reduce requirements in applying for DSWD benefits and other specified financial assistance and grants.

Gatchalian likewise promised to implement measures to upgrade DSWD’s health care facilities and other social activity centers of the agency.

Overall, Gatchalian said he already had an overview of the processes and concepts about his new endeavor because he was used to it as a three-term mayor, but however asked for a little more time before going into the complete details.

“Tatlong araw pa lang po ako sa opis kaya marami pa akong tao na dapat kausapin at hingan ng mga importanteng datos (I have been in office for only three days so there are still a lot of people that I need to talk to and ask for important data),” Gatchalian said. (PNA)