The World Bank approved a U.S. $600 million (29.1 billion pesos) loan to the Philippines for its social protection program to benefit 4 million families amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the multilateral lending agency said Wednesday.
The funds are to be used to provide support to the Beneficiary FIRST Social Protection Project’s conditional cash transfer program that directly benefits the poor, the World Bank said. Patterned after similar programs in Brazil and Mexico, it provides cash to children on condition that they go to school while their nourishment and health are monitored.
“We are pleased to support the government’s efforts to sustain social protection for the poor and most vulnerable families,” said Ndiame´ Diop, the bank’s country director for Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.
He said this would help impoverished families ensure that children can remain in school and stay healthy “as the country takes measures to control this pandemic.”
“In these difficult times, cash transfers to the poor and vulnerable indirectly support local economies and boost prospects for recovery,” he said.
The World Bank has been supporting the country’s poverty alleviation project for a decade. The project, implemented in about 145 cities and another 1,400 municipalities, has benefited about 4 million Filipinos.
The Philippines has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the East Asia region. Most of the country remains in stages of lockdown.
Earlier this week, the government decided quarantine restrictions in Manila and five other heavily populated urban centers would remain until at least the end of October. Metropolitan Manila, with its estimated population of 16 million, and the other urban centers in central and southern Philippines would have less strict health protocols but remain on lockdown.
The southern province of Lanao del Sur, including the city of Marawi, is to be on a modified enhanced community quarantine and Iligan city in Lanao del Norte province will be under a general quarantine in October.
On Wednesday, the health department reported 58 more people have died, bringing the death toll to 5,054. It also reported 2,426 new infections, bringing the total in the Philippines to 311,694 – the highest in East Asia.
Globally, more than 33.7 million COVID-19 infections and more than 1 million deaths have been recorded, according to disease experts at U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said the country is expected to have a vaccine by the second quarter of next year, noting several Chinese pharmaceutical firms have made plans to start trials here.
In addition, Russia announced plans to conduct trials of the Sputnik V vaccine in the Philippines by next month.