InterAksyon.com means BUSINESS
The Philippine unit of New York-headquartered Citibank is in talks with the social welfare department to issue prepaid cards for disaster victims.
Once issued, the cards may be used by beneficiaries to buy goods from merchants and other organizations, especially those which have previously worked with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The card is expected to help guarantee that beneficiaries receive financial assistance sent by donors, including the government. It is also seen to cut red tape since it will facilitate payments to sellers.
The card may also be used for the government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P), which requires beneficiaries to keep their kids in school, among others, to continue receiving cash assistance.
As of March 2012, some 3.029 million households have benefitted from the program.
“The prepaid card will allow us to get the supplies because the [merchants] know that the card that they use has cash,” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said during the 45th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
However, talks with Citibank are “still in exploratory stage,” Soliman added, minutes after an urban disaster risk management forum ended at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).
The forum, entitled Vulnerable Cities—Waking Up to the Need for Urban Disaster Risk Management, was sponsored by Citibank, considered as the third-biggest bank in the United States.
“We’re still working on the details because the arrangement needs to have an audit trail,” Soliman clarified.
Discussions between Citibank and the DSWD began early this year after Mindanao reeled from the effects of typhoon Sendong, Soliman said. [See: Sendong]
Aneth Ng-Lim, Citibank’s Philippine country corporate affairs director, has refused to comment regarding the matter.
Currently, beneficiaries of the government’s cash transfer program—including those living in far-flung areas—receive their financial assistance with the help of mobile phone technology.
The DSWD uses Globe Telecom and GCash, its cash remittance service, to send information containing names and identification card numbers of beneficiaries and the amount that they are supposed to receive.
The information is received by a team leader who verifies beneficiaries’ ID cards before releasing their financial assistance, Soliman said.
The cash payment arrangement is a “closed system,” Soliman said, adding that it has no flaws nor leaks.
“If your name, ID number, and/or the amount that you’re supposed to receive are not reflected in the information on the phone, then you must be a fraud,” Soliman added.
She clarified that security is the bigger challenge, especially in far-flung areas.
Sometimes, millions of pesos are delivered by helicopter and the cash itself needs to be kept in a secure place, she said.
Soliman also said that the DSWD is currently in talks with Smart Communications Inc., the mobile unit of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), which is controlled by Manuel V. Pangilinan.
TV 5, whose news website is InterAksyon, is also controlled by the group led by Manuel V. Pangilinan.
Ayala-led Globe Telecom is a rival of Smart.
InterAksyon.com means BUSINESS