[Almost 28% of Pinoys remain poor.]

MANILA, APRIL 29, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Ted Torres - The percentage of Filipinos living below the poverty line has remained almost unchanged in the past six years, according to the latest poverty data released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) yesterday.

The recorded poverty incidence for the first half of 2012 was 27.9 percent, slightly less than the 28.8 percent recorded in the first half of 2006, and 28.6 percent in the first half of 2009 and 2011.

The NSCB report on the 2012 first semester state of poverty in the Philippines showed that a family of five can be considered extremely poor if it is earning P5,458 a month or just enough to put food on the table.

The same family has to earn at least P7,821 if it wants to satisfy other non-food needs such as clothing.

In terms of income distribution, NSCB secretary general Jose Ramon Albert said that 20 percent of the population or the poorest segment accounts for only six percent of total national income, while the upper 20 percent accounts for nearly 50 percent of the total national income.

Poverty incidence was highest in Mindanao and lowest in the National Capital Region as well as in Regions III and IV.

The poorest are in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with 46.9 percent poverty incidence, Region XII (37.5 percent), Region VIII (37.2 percent), and Region IX (36.9 percent).

Regions where poverty incidence has gone down are Caraga and Region I.

Considered the poorest provinces were Apayao, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar, Ifugao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and Masbate.

Meanwhile, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the full year 2012 poverty survey would be released by the third quarter or in September this year.

Balisacan said an annual tracking of poverty incidence will now be done to allow the government to make the necessary tactical or short-term changes in its Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. Poverty reports are traditionally released every three years.

“Although this first semester result on poverty incidence is not the dramatic result we wanted, we remain hopeful that, with the timely measures we are now implementing, the next rounds of poverty statistics will give much better results that will reflect the government’s massive investment in human development and poverty reduction, which understandably needs time to take full effect,” Balisacan said.

He said the problem of poverty requires a comprehensive, “multi-pronged and multi-sectoral solution” involving many stakeholders. “We are making use of the current effort to update the Philippine Development Plan to effect this solution,” he said.

“Agencies were asked to identify which projects could be implemented immediately, particularly those that would be implemented outside the NCR and across the regions. Hence, there had been many public works projects that were undertaken during the second half of 2012,” he said.

“We have to get our infrastructure program going… We can make a dent next time, the private sector has already started responding to positive developments,” he added. Infrastructure makes up only five percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

Some economists had expressed belief that the 6.6 percent economic growth in 2012 was not inclusive.

National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Joel Rocamora said he already expects raising of eyebrows especially from the “opposition,” according to an abs-cbnnews.com report.

“It’s easy to say that the government is doing a lot…but those receiving CCT (conditional cash transfer) don’t say it doesn’t have an impact on their lives. Perhaps the ones who are impatient are not the poor but the middle class,” he said.

Rocamora, in the abs-cbnnews.com report, said there is a need to tap the P70-billion coco levy funds parked in banks to spur farmers’ production. Plus interest, the fund should now be about P80 billion to P90 billion, the report said.

Balisacan agreed, noting the coconut industry’s potential in job generation. Besides the coconut industry, Balisacan sees the need to improve production of the agriculture sector, the report said.

“We need value-added activities for our farmers. We also need to spur their access to markets,” he said.

“Visible under-employment in agriculture is a persistent problem that always comes up in labor survey results. This means that agriculture sector workers work less than 40 hours a week, perhaps because there is not much demand for labor in their areas; and they are looking for additional work, possibly because the wages they receive are not enough to meet their needs,” he added.

Palace on poverty: Figures to improve By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 25, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Poverty figures released the other day were only up to the first semester of 2012, and the situation is getting better, Malacañang said yesterday.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda emphasized, however, that improvements will not happen overnight and the executive needs the support of Congress for poverty alleviation.

“These are all historical data. The press conference on the poverty incidence was on the first semester of 2012,” Lacierda said.

He was referring to the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB)’s press briefing last Tuesday wherein it announced the release of its “2012 first semester state of poverty in the Philippines” report.

“These are 2012 numbers, these are not current numbers. The survey that was conducted by the NSCB was for the first semester of 2012, which means the first half of 2012,” Lacierda stressed. “Are we confident that poverty numbers by the second semester of 2012 will improve? …The answer is yes, it will improve.”

He said the government is bent on giving more attention to three sectors: agriculture, tourism and infrastructure.

“Let me state that this is not an overnight thing. This is a work in progress,” Lacierda said. “For that reason, we also need support from both houses of Congress.”

He noted that growth in agriculture is slow and the government is addressing this. Lacierda said a Cabinet cluster is reviewing areas where jobs can be created and which crops can be enhanced. Farm-to-market roads are in place but farmers need more access to technology and credit, he said.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said the NSCB report should encourage government agencies to step up efforts to address poverty. “We would like to assure that the DSWD is doing its best to implement programs and projects that will contribute to the poverty alleviation efforts of the government,” Soliman said.

Jobless growth

Sen. Sergio Osmena III said poverty has been a serious problem for years “not only in our country but in many countries, even first world nations.”

He said the country is experiencing “jobless growth” in which automation increases profits for corporations but hardly expands the worker base.

The question is what to do to create more jobs. But thatTs a long discussion, ask the trained economists,s Osmeña said in a text message to reporters.

For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, scenes of poverty around the country including Metro Manila are a validation of the NSCB report.

“I can actually validate that survey result on poverty situation when I go around and see for myself poverty at its worst,” he said.

He said he had seen a number of communities “very close to (the National Capital Region), if not within NCR itself, where one cannot imagine how the residents can last a day under the conditions they are in.”

Sen. Ralph Recto said the NSCB report indicates that the rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer.

“The gap between the rich and poor is wider,” he said.

Recto, chairman of the Senate committee on ways and means, noted that the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is “helpful but not enough” in addressing poverty.

He batted for more “more investments to educate the poor families so they can help themselves.” He said the government must also invest more in infrastructure and make health care more accessible to the poor.

The NSCB survey only confirmed what we already know. Nothing substantial is being done to address poverty,T said Makabayan senatorial candidate Teddy Casiño.

Casiño also lashed out at the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and other concerned agencies for not doing their jobs. We might as well abolish NAPC,W he said.

“Artificially increasing the income of people does not work,” he said, referring to the CCT program. “What the government should do is to strengthen agriculture and industries and grant higher wages. That way, we are not only uplifting the lives of the people, we are also boosting the economy since higher incomes result in increased demand for local products and services,” he said.

Growth not inclusive

Casiño said the growth being trumpeted by the administration does not appear to have any impact on the common people.

“If the President is really concerned with inclusive growth, then his administration should look into improving the lives of our farmers and workers,” he said.

“The point is, the poverty survey is the only survey that really matters. Unfortunately, the President seems more concerned with non-inclusive economic ratings such as the Fitch Ratings and his Liberal Party’s senatorial survey standing,” he said.

He also said the NSCB report failed to capture the true extent of poverty in the country.

“It is preposterous to think that a family of five needs only P7,821 per month to stay above the poverty threshold when the estimated family living wage is already at P1,022 per day to cover food, shelter and clothing,” he said.

Opposition senatorial candidates, meanwhile, took turns lambasting the administration for the poverty figures.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) campaign manager Toby Tiangco said the poverty figures were a rejection of the administration’s glowing economic claims. He said economic growth under the Aquino administration had a “faint impact” on employment and poverty alleviation.

“What happened? Didn’t they tell us the economy is improving?”Tiangco asked. “If we are serious in improving the lives of Filipinos, government must take concrete and practical steps for everyone to feel the impact down to the grassroots level.”

Sharing his observation was another UNA senatorial candidate, Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay.

“The NSCB is a government office. Yet it could not deny the fact that President Aquino has failed to improve the lives of the poor during the first three years of his term,” she said.

“Something must not be working in the strategies they have employed. Rather than point fingers on who is to blame, perhaps the President should order his people to find better means to address the issues that factor in the country’s poverty problem,” she said.

“Great effort must be made by the current administration to improve the living conditions of the people,” she added. “Give them the tools to make them succeed – education, skills training. Help the people maximize their potentials.”

Former senator Ernesto Maceda said the government must come up with a program that would create at least three million jobs.

“More tax incentives must be given to businessmen and investors to put up new businesses or expand their workforce,” Maceda said in a statement.

Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile Jr., another UNA candidate, called the NSCB report “alarming and unacceptable.” He urged the government to launch a comprehensive food production program to satisfy the needs especially of Filipinos living below the poverty line.

“It means that virtually one in every three Filipinos lives in extreme poverty. Primarily it means that at least one-third of 90 million Filipinos are undernourished for lack of food,” he said.

Enrile is the principal author of House Bill 4626 or Filipinos for Food First. The bill seeks to develop the capability of each region and province to produce enough food for its constituents and sell surplus to the rest of the country.

“We are forced to import food, costing billions of pesos annually, when we can produce this food ourselves and thus increase the income of millions of farmers and their families,” Enrile said.

He urged the government and the public to “subsidize our own farmers by buying their produce at reasonable prices, and providing the infrastructure for the transportation and distribution of food countrywide.”

He said the billions of pesos saved from the importation of food should be used to develop other key industries including agriculture. – With Paolo Romero, Christina Mendez, Alexis Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano, Rainier Allan Ronda

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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