MANILA, SEPTEMBER 4, 2010 (STAR) By Helen M. Flores - The Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved yesterday a $400-million loan for the Philippines to support the expansion of its conditional cash transfer program known as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the new loan will benefit some 582,000 poor Filipino families.

“We are thankful for the ADB’s approval of a $400-million loan for the expansion of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This is very timely as the DSWD will increase the number of families receiving monthly cash grants to 2.3 million by the end of 2011,” Soliman told a press briefing at the ADB office in Ortigas, Pasig City.

The DSWD said this was the first ADB loan to the Philippines for the 4Ps under the Aquino administration.

The 4Ps is a five-year poverty reduction program of the government implemented through the DSWD which provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education particularly of children aged 0-14.

It gives a P500 per month grant for health and nutrition and P300 per month per child for educational expenses. A household with three qualified children can avail themselves up to P1, 400 per month or P15, 000 a year.

Soliman said the program has benefited nearly 900, 000 poor households nationwide since it was launched in 2008. She said the beneficiaries will likely reach one million before the year ends.

According to the ADB, financial barriers are a major reason why children and pregnant women from poor families do not regularly seek out preventive healthcare. Similarly, costs associated with education, as well as poor households’ need for additional income - are leading factors keeping children out of school.

“Conditional cash transfer programs have proven to be an effective way of keeping children healthier and in school,” said Camilla Holmemo, ADB poverty reduction specialist.

“These programs help families break free from the cycle of poverty,” she said.

Poor mothers and pregnant women are eligible for cash grants if their young children receive regular health checkups and immunizations; and if pregnant women receive prenatal and postnatal care.

Families can also receive an additional grant if their children are enrolled in primary or secondary school and maintain a class attendance rate of at least 85 percent every month.

Neeraj Jain, ADB country director, said the loan will have a 25-year term, including a grace period of five years. The loan has an annual interest rate of 0.15 percent.

Meanwhile, Soliman said the Philippines is unlikely to achieve one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which is reducing poverty incidence to 12.5 percent by 2015.

Soliman said poverty incidence rate in the country is currently at 40 percent based on the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations.

Jain said the conditional cash transfer program of the government “is a necessary program but is not sufficient program to reduce poverty.”

“This must be complemented with livelihood programs such as community-driven development programs,” he said. – With Ted Torr

Department of Tourism still upbeat on target of 3.3-million visitors (The Philippine Star) Updated September 03, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (0)

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism (DOT) said it remains confident of hitting the government’s target of 3.3-million foreign visitor arrivals this year despite certain challenges.

Declaring the 10th Philippine Travel Exchange (Phitex 2010) open, Tourism Secretary Alberto A. Lim said: “I am truly grateful that, despite the challenges we faced the past week and a half, we were still able to attract 96 foreign delegates from around the world and 191 Filipino sellers representing 112 companies. I believe this is a clear testament of your confidence in Philippine tourism.”

Lim also told the participants yesterday that for the first five months of the year, foreign visitor arrivals had already reached almost 1.5 million or an 11.2-percent increase over the same period last year.

“If we are able to sustain this growth rate through your unwavering commitment to support our promotions efforts, we have no doubt we will hit our target of 3.3 million arrivals by yearend,” Lim stressed to the foreign delegates from huge travel agencies around the world, including nine from China, three from Taiwan, two from Hong Kong and two from Singapore.

Lim’s appeal immediately drew a positive response from Shanghai Synwalk International Travel Service general manager Bob Jia, who told a subsequent interview that his company would continue selling the Philippine tourism products and destinations to China.

Jia described the Philippines as a country of beautiful scenery and wonderful people that the world should see and appreciate. Jia was among the travel wholesale buyers who met with local sellers of tour packages during pre-scheduled one-on-one business meetings at the Manila Hotel.

These business transactions are expected to generate inflows of large volumes of tourists from all over the world.

Earlier, Lim cited the $9.72-billion or six-percent contribution of tourism to the gross domestic product (GDP) and 10 percent to the entire workforce.


Official says nation's tourism industry suffering after Manila hostage tragedy ( Updated September 03, 2010 11:01 PM Comments (0) View comments

GUILIN (Xinhua) - Inbound tourism to the Philippines has suffered and will suffer more after the tragic hostage-taking late last month, a top Filipino tourism official said here Friday.

More than 1,000 tour groups from the Chinese mainland and Hong Kong have canceled their travel plans to the Philippines since the incident, Filipino Tourism Undersecretary Simeon P. Marfori II told Xinhua in the southern Chinese city of Guilin while attending an international tourism forum.

A dismissed policeman hijacked a tour bus carrying 21 Hong Kong tourists in Manila on Aug. 23. The incident ended with eight tourists dead and several others injured. The hostage-taker was killed in the police assault.

Marfori predicted the inbound tourism to the Philippines would be impacted by the incident for at least three months in the future and the losses would increase further.

Marfori said he was sorry for the Filipino government's handling of the incident and offered a sincere apology, especially to the Hong Kong citizens.

He said the Filipino government has taken measures to strengthen security.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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