• By The Financial District


Digitalization will be the focal point of a planned distibution of subsidy for affected households and workers.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said this is patterned after the successful Small Wage Subsidy Program (SBWS) implemented earlier by the Department of Finance (DOF) and Social Security System (SSS) to ensure the efficient and corruption-free distribution of future emergency subsidies among the targeted beneficiaries.

Aside from digitalization of the entire process from application to distribution of the subsidy the two other processes for  the planned subsidies for affected individuals are direct distribution of the aid through banks or electronic payment channels; and  thirdly the adoption of close administrative oversight of the program, which includes tapping the expertise of the private sector to iron out possible implementation hitches as quickly as possible, Dominguez said.

Dominguez said the SBWS have come up with a “largely efficient and effective,” distribution during the meeting of President Duterte with selected members of the Cabinet in Davao City on Monday night. Portions of the meeting were televised and streamed online this morning.

“That’s why we took the lessons here (from the SBWS program) at pinasok ho namin sa Bayanihan 2 law na as much as possible lahat ng tulong sa tao, give it through the banks, to MLhuillier (remittance center) so no cash is handled, as little as cash as possible. So walang mangungupit, walang nawawala,” Dominguez said, referring to the proposed Bayanihan To Recover As One Act that was already ratified by both chambers of the Congress and is now up for the President’s signature.

President Duterte endorsed Dominguez’s recommendations and said these “will lessen corruption” in the distribution of financial aid to beneficiaries in the future.

“Ang maganda kasi dito wala ng transaction na may tao-tao. Puro makina na lang at diretso na sa …. ang pinaka-importante dito ay yong paglagay sa ….paghulog sa bangko ng gobyerno diretso ito sa empleyado. There is no intermediary and there is no intervention of any kind lalo na tao, diretso sa inyo,” the President said during the meeting.

In his report to the President, Dominguez said that by automating and digitalizing the SBWS–and with manual processing kept to a minimum–the government was able to efficiently and quickly distribute a total of P46 billion to 3.1 million employees of small businesses affected by the work stoppages resulting from the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and other similar containment measures to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

The SBWS was implemented with the applicant-beneficiaries having zero face-to-face contact with government employees handling this subsidy for displaced workers of COVID-affected small businesses.

This system not only reduced corruption, but it also minimized health risks that come with physically applying for the subsidies and distributing them to the beneficiaries amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Dominguez said.

“We think all subsidy programs in the future should be digitized. In other words, go through digitalization of all transactions. And number two, the direct distribution of aid should be through banks or e-wallet accounts of the intended beneficiaries,” Dominguez said during the meeting.

“And one of the most important factors that made this a relatively successful program, is close administration oversight of the critical steps of the program,” he added.

Dominguez said that as a result of digitalization, employees started receiving their subsidies on April 30, a day before the announced schedule of the payouts.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) worked in tandem with the SSS, which had a computerized system in place, to verify the submissions of employers for their workers’ applications for wage subsidies, Dominguez, who chairs the Social Security Commission (SSC), said.

After verification of the qualified applicants, the subsidies were directly credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries, either through their bank accounts, Paymaya accounts or sent through the government’s private sector partner, MLhuillier, for cash pickup.

Within two weeks of the application deadline, almost all of the first tranche of the wage subsidy had already been credited to the accounts of the beneficiaries or sent through MLhuillier. The SSS informed beneficiaries via text message when their subsidy was ready for pickup.

As a result of this direct distribution method, every SBWS beneficiary was ensured that he or she received the full amount of the subsidy.