Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian targets to finish the distribution of livelihood assistance to affected rice farmers by Thursday, September 14, before election ban on government spending, in response to President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s order to expedite the payout and in compliance with the election period spending ban.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has initiated the distribution of cash grants to micro rice retailers in selected areas of the country as part of the government’s initiative to cushion the impact of the rice price cap.

Social Welfare Secretary Rex Gatchalian stated that they have already distributed cash grants amounting to P7.5 million to 474 small and micro rice retailers in the cities of San Juan, Caloocan, Navotas, Parañaque, and Quezon City, as well as in the province of Zamboanga del Sur.

Gatchalian added that more than 400 rice retailers from six areas in the Philippines affected by rice price caps have already received a cash grant from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

“Medyo maliit pa iyong catchment natin pero sa araw na ito hanggang sa 14th, lalaki at bibilis ito dahil simultaneous na ang payout natin sa iba’t-ibang rehiyon at iba’t-ibang mga highly urbanized cities. Gusto ng Pangulo natin na makarating ang livelihood grant sa ating micro rice retailers sa mabilis na panahon … ang importante sa amin na mabigay lahat kaagad ito dahil mag e-election ban din,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian said that they expected the number of beneficiaries to increase in the coming days as they aim to fast-track the distribution of cash assistance by September 14, or before the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ban on public spending.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered the distribution of P15,000 cash assistance to small rice retailers who were affected by the implementation of the mandated rice price caps on regular and well-milled rice nationwide through Executive Order (EO) No. 39.

Under the EO, the mandated price ceiling on regular rice is PhP41.00 per kilogram, while the mandated price cap on well-milled rice is PhP45.00 per kilogram.

With Marcos’s directive, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) identify the qualified beneficiaries of the government’s cash grants. The DSWD, for its part, is responsible for the distribution of cash assistance through its Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP).

As the distribution of cash grants continues, Gatchalian clarified that small rice retailers who were disqualified from receiving cash grants may file an appeal online where the details and other information were posted.

He added that the DTI has also set up its “grievance desk” for small rice retailers.

“Let’s say, feeling mo na dapat kasama ka pero nakaligtaan ka, pwede kang mag-apply online, nandoon na iyong mga detalye, or doon sa mga payment center, iyong kapag nagpi-payout kami, mayroon ding grievance desk na itinaguyod ang DTI. So kapag pumunta doon iyong isang tao at sinasabi niya, ‘Ako ay rice retailer. Bakit wala ako dito?’ kaagad naming kina-capture iyong data ng DTI, ibi-verify then ipapasa ulit sa DSWD,” Gatchalian said.

Gatchalian asked small rice retailers to monitor the schedule of the payout in their area so that they would not miss the distribution of assistance intended for them.