AKAP Program to Serve as Safety Net for “Near Poor” Filipinos

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) is a national agency responsible for protecting the rights and social welfare of every Filipino, across all “classes.” They have this new AKAP program – Ayuda para sa Kapos and Kita Program intended for the Filipinos on the verge of becoming poor.

Among these classes are Filipinos who are classified as “near poor,” which include minimum wage earners. They are vulnerable to economic shocks (e.g. runaway inflation) and other financial concerns. For this reason, a program is being designed: AKAP.

AKAP Program to Serve as Safety Net for Near Poor Filipinos

“Near Poor” Pinoys to Benefit from AKAP Program

AKAP stands for “Ayuda para sa Kapos and Kita Program,” which was designed for the “near poor” segment, according to DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian, as cited in a DSWD press release on Wednesday, 14th February 2024.

“This segment in our society feels excluded from our DSWD programs,” Gatchalian explained. “An economic shock such as a runaway inflation can easily send the ‘near poor’ back to poverty.”

When the General Appropriations Act of 2024 included a program such as AKAP, the Secretary said that it was welcome news to the DSWD because they were already considering such a program.

Moreover, Gatchalian recalled that during the third quarter of 2023, DSWD officials held a meeting with national statistician Undersecretary Claire Dennis Mapa, chair of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) secretariat and a renowned poverty expert.

“We were already exploring programs that will provide a safety net for those classified as ‘near poor,’” he stated. “Usec. Mapa briefed us on the value of a ‘near poor’ program so as to prevent a vicious cycle of minimum wage earners and 4Ps graduates going back to poverty.”

Sayang (what a waste) if they slip back into poverty because we have made investments to pull them out of poverty like 4Ps,” the Secretary added. “Years of human capital investment will go to waste if they fall back and start all over again.”

That being said, Secretary Gatchalian reiterated that the Legislative branch has “the power of the purse,” and that the DSWD “respects their wisdom in crafting the national budget.”

“The GAA enjoys presumption of regularity because it went through tough scrutiny of the legislative branch,” he said. “We will be remiss in our duties if we do not implement what is in the budget.”

In addition, the Secretary stressed that “not a single centavo” of the AKAP budget as provided in the 2024 GAA has been spent. This is because the DSWD is still crafting the program’s guidelines.

AKAP Program to Serve as Safety Net for Near Poor Filipinos
Image Credit: dswd.gov.ph (DSWD logo)

“AKAP Not Linked to People’s Initiative Efforts” – House

The DSWD Chief’s statements was issued amid claims that AKAP was involved with recent “people’s initiative” efforts to amend the 1987 Constitution. For their part, lawmakers from the House of Representatives also shared their piece during a press conference.

“For the knowledge of everyone, ang AKAP is a regular line item already in the GAA (General Appropriations Act),” Bataan 1st District Rep. Geraldine Roman said, as stated in a press release.

Meron siyang (The program has a) total budget of P26.7 billion,” she explained. “It does not state that it’s going to be used for the people’s initiative. So, I don’t know. You cannot just immediately conclude that it is going to be used for that purpose.”

Likewise, AKO BICOL Party-list Rep. Raul Angelo “Jil” Bongalon described claims associating AKAP with people’s initiative as “a big lie.” He reiterated the program’s noble intentions to support Filipino citizens in need.

“AKAP is full of good intentions at panawagan ko na lang sana, huwag bigyan ng pangit na kulay (and I call for people to stop giving false assumptions),” Bongalon stated.

Will AKAP push through? Only time will tell. We do know that aside from minimum wage earners, the “near poor” also include those who have exited from the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the government’s national poverty reduction strategy. Read more about the 4Ps program in this article.