But situation seen improving as economy recovers
MANILA - Poverty in the Philippines worsened due to the COVID-19 pandemic and will remain high this year, an official of the Asian Development Bank said Wednesday.
"Clearly, poverty increased in 2020. It will remain elevated this year," said ADB country director Kelly Bird in a virtual briefing.
The COVID-19 pandemic likely pushed the Philippine poverty incidence to 20 percent this year from 16.7 percent in 2018, Bird said.
With the country's population seen at 110 million, a poverty incidence rate of 20 percent would be equivalent to about 22 million poor Filipinos. In contrast, the number of poor Filipinos in 2018 was estimated at 17.7 million.
Bird however added that ADB expects poverty to decline as the economy reopens.
"A lot of those who have fallen into poverty, it will be temporary for them. As long as the economy continues to grow, we should see those numbers decline," Bird said.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua earlier said the Philippines could still bring down poverty incidence to its target of 14 percent by 2022 despite the pandemic.
"The 14 percent target is still doable given the anticipated head start and recovery this year," Chua had said, but added that they are monitoring recent developments such as a surge in the new COVID variants and imposition of stricter quarantine.
Bird said keeping the poverty incidence target was "the right thing" to do since this would serve as a guide in crafting policies.
"It is important because that is where the government can develop programs and policies, ensure adequate funding for the social sector so they can achieve that target of 14 percent. It is important to stick with that target," Bird said.
Data showed the country was able to reduce poverty incidence to 16.7 percent in 2018 from 23.5 percent in 2015, lifting at least 6 million Filipinos out of poverty.
The Asian Development Bank on Wednesday said the Philippine economy could grow by at least 4.5 percent in 2021 and by 5.5 percent in 2022.