Innovative Financing Schemes for the Poor (submitted as Taguig Citycard)
The rapid influx of outsiders into fast growing cities is referred to as urban drift. This phenomenon brings a host of problems for the administrators and residents of these cities. These problems include the rise of informal settlements, lost job opportunities for city residents, and inefficient delivery of social services.
To address the problems brought on by urban drift, the Taguig city government launched the Taguig Citycard, an identification card system that allows the residents to have discounted or free access to a multitude of social services as well as employment priority. The objective of the project is to ensure the efficient and effective delivery of social services and benefits such as free education, hospitalization, funeral assistance, and housing programs to city residents. It also aims to give employment priority to Taguig residents and provide the\ city government with an accurate demographic profile of its constituents.
Taguig’s city government was well aware of the enormity of providing each resident or household with a Citycard. Fortunately, the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) agreed to produce 352,000 customized cards for the project for free. The city government also tapped the business community to contribute to the project. Business establishments are levied a fee of P750 annually for every non-Taguig resident employee that it has in its workforce. Part of the fee would be used to subsidize the cost of social services. The city government believes that imposing a levy, as opposed to raising taxes, is a better way of passing on the social cost of hiring non-residents to the private companies. It is also the city’s way of encouraging businesses to hire locals.
The innovation of this program is seen in the cross-subsidy structure created through the Taguig City Card—i.e. resources from the richer segments of society (such as the private companies) are channeled to serve the poor. This is true as evidenced by the P750- levy earlier mentioned. Another example is that a high-end memorial park was convinced to establish a similar facility catering to the poor.
For Taguig’s residents, the Citycard program offers rich benefits that cover “womb-to-tomb” social services. Since its inception, the program has already benefited more than a thousand individuals in hospital bill discounts and free burial niches in the city-owned Serenity Park cemetery.
The production of the Citycard commenced in August of 2008, and the more than 3,000 city government employees were the first recipients. So far, there are 20,488 Resident Citycard holders while more than 50,000 Citycard applications are being processed. The city government is confident that it can cover 50% of its total household or an estimated 54,000 families by the end of 2009. The aim is to provide one Citycard for each family. The Citycard of the head of the family also covers benefits for the spouse and the children.
In July 2009, the city government started offering free college education at the Taguig City University to Citycard holders. This means that Taguig students will now be able enter college without spending a single centavo for tuition, provided they or their parents have the Taguig Citycard. The city government is already expecting to subsidize the education cost of more than 5,000 students.
Aside from education, Citycard holders also enjoy medical and hospital benefits. Resident cardholders no longer have to pay professional fees for doctors at the Taguig City Hospital (TCH), since the consultant doctors are now under the city government’s payroll. The cardholders are also entitled to a maximum of 40% discount on hospital room rates, basic hospital services and laboratory tests at the TCH. They also enjoy free annual physical= check-ups. An additional 5% discount on medicines in various Botika ng Barangay outlets is also available, provided the prescription is issued by authorized Taguig Barangay or Health Center doctors. The TCH has already registered 428 individuals who have availed of the Citycard’s medical benefits.
The Citycard is now a requirement to avail of the city’s socialized housing program, the Family Townhomes Project, which to date has benefited 535 homeless families. Another 242 housing units are now in various stages of completion.
Taguig residents can now avail of free funeral services—from embalming to the holding of wakes up to interment at the Serenity Park. Opened in December of 2008, Serenity Park is the city public cemetery that features first class facilities and amenities that are at par with high-end burial grounds such as Heritage Park in Fort Bonifacio. It exclusively caters to Citycard holders. To date, there are 310 individuals who have availed of the free burial niches at the Serenity Park.
Registered senior citizens who are Citycard holders can avail of the P500 birthday gift from the city government through their smart cards. Over 800 members of the Office of the Senior Citizens Affairs have already enjoyed this Citycard benefit. Also, the annual Pamaskong Handog will be given out by the local government based on the master list of indigent Citycard holders. Citycard holders will also have the chance to win cash and other prizes in monthly raffle draws.
In the future, the Taguig Citycard will also be used as a discount card\ with partner establishments. More social benefits are being studied by\ the city government for implementation.
The program is participatory and empowering in the sense that the social services and other benefits are uplifting the lives and lifestyle of the constituents. The city government considers the huge application for Citycards as an indication of the people’s acceptance and participation in the program—i.e. the growing number of Citycard holders indicates that the city government is effectively eliciting the support of its constituents.
The Taguig Citycard program is envisioned and is designed to continue beyond the present\ administration because the program can be easily adopted by succeeding administrations to maintain the benefits that the constituents are enjoying. The beneficiaries would also surely pressure the city leaders to sustain the project. But the strength of the program actually lies in the city government’s ability to deliver the\ social services. Sustaining the program will hinge on how the city maintains the delivery of these social services.