(STAR) By Delon Porcalla - In an effort to underscore the country’s worsening poverty, a non-government organization advocating food security has revealed that each Filipino farmer only makes P44 a day, or P1,387 a month, based on figures of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

Rice Watch and Action Network (R1) based this computation on a 2006 NEDA survey that showed the “average annual net income of a farmer is P16,650 which is only 20 percent or 1/5 of the annual household poverty threshold.”

Jessica Reyes-Cantos, lead convenor of R1, lamented that farmers only get this minuscule amount despite their hard work, and when “food spending comprises 44 percent of a family’s household expenditures.”

“We dare the government to address this problem through a coherent and sustainable food security policy and desist from providing the people, particularly in the rural areas, with politician-driven food distribution campaign,” she said.

According to her, the Filipino masses need more than just noodle and rice dole-outs. “The people need sustainable livelihoods to tide them over,” Cantos asserted.

A recent Social Weather Stations survey indicated that a “record high of 3.8-million families or 21.5 percent experienced involuntary hunger at least once in the last three months.” This figure surpassed the previous record of 19 percent in November 2006 and February 2007.

“We have seen the government use the past hunger incidence surveys to either launch a defensive or offensive propaganda depending on the results,” the NGO said in a statement.

The group also urged the government to implement “concrete and sound measures that go with the expected media stunts,” and “not just lip service,” when the country observes World Food Day.

Cantos said rural poverty remains a major component of total poverty, as some 70 percent of the country’s poor live in rural areas. Based on the 2003 Family Income and Expenditure Survey, poverty incidence in agriculture is 46 percent and 12 percent in non-agriculture.

“In the light of the series of government fiascoes over unsound priority programs based on reported kickbacks from government contracts, the legislators would lend the people with some sense of public service by scrutinizing major government policies to sustainably address the hunger problem,” she suggested.

R1 is criticizing the government’s hybrid rice subsidy in the 2008 budget of the Department of Agriculture following previous reports of misuse of funds and failure to support its claim of an increase in production yield and farmers’ income.

“The 2007 World Bank report on the public expenditures of the DA already found that the sizeable amount of money and public human resources spent on the hybrid rice program did not produce much net social benefit,” it said.

“Its supposed claim of creating a million jobs and other social benefits in the countryside already failed, wasting the taxpayers’ money allotted to this program over the past six years,” said Cantos.

The World Bank report criticized the largest slice of production support (about 85 percent) allocated to the GMA rice program, in particular for the Hybrid Rice Commercialization Program.

Peso seen to sustain strength By Iris C.Gonzales Friday, December 28, 2007

The peso is expected to sustain its strength in 2008 due to hefty dollar inflows from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and the general weakness of the dollar, Banco de Oro (BDO) said in a report.

BDO expects the peso to appreciate to as high as 38 to $1 or to a range of between 38-48 against the dollar next year.

It also expects the benchmark 91-day Treasury bill (T-bill) to record an average rate of 3.875 percent next year or to range from 3.5 to five percent.

In the local equities market, BDO expects investors to continue with their strong appetite as it predicts the stock market index to range between 3,500 to 4,500 points.

Overall, it expects the economy to remain strong despite the expected weakness of the US economy.

“Despite the expected stalling of the US economy, we continue to believe the Philippine economy to be resilieent on the back of sustained gross domestic product (GDP) growth, fiscal stability and increased infrastructure spending, strong external position and expanding investments in the information and communications technology (ICT) and business process outsourcing (BPO) and property sectors,” BDO said in its report.

It also expects the telecommunications, electronics, property development, tourism and IT-enabled services to post strong growths next year.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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