MANILA - The coronavirus pandemic may temporarily disrupt the "significant" gains achieved by the government in terms of poverty reduction, Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Chua said Friday.
The administration earlier committed to reduce poverty rate by 6 million by 2022, a feat achieved in advance last 2018, however, a slowdown is expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Chua told ANC.
Poverty rate has gone down to 16.7 percent in 2018 from 23.5 percent in 2015, he said.
"Unfortunately, this very good progress will temporarily slow or reverse temporarily because of the pandemic and this has hit the urban poor far more than the rest of the population," Chua said.
"We might see a temporary increase but it really depends on the actions we take, our personal behavior and the level of quarantine that will determine the kinds of jobs that will be available," he added.
Out of the total poverty rate, urban poverty is at 9 percent while rural poverty is at 24 percent since urban areas such as Metro Manila and Cebu have higher COVID-19 cases, Chua said.
Chua said the government would ensure that those in the urban areas would get the support they need to "avoid further deterioration" such as cash and subsidies.
But the real solution is to open up the economy "as much as possible," he said.
LINK: Poverty incidence declines in 3 years
LINK: Fewer poor Filipino individuals, families in 2018: official data
Poverty incidence is expected to either decline to 15.5 percent or rise to 17.5 percent next year depending on government's actions vs the pandemic, restrictions and public behavior in terms of health protocols, Chua said.
Unemployment is expected to further decline to between 6 to 8 percent next year as the economy reopens. Joblessness was at 10 percent in July, data showed.
"There is a lot of uncertainty, but I think the general direction is that we’re going to see more opening up of the economy and we’re going to make sure that people who are not able to work are able to be supported," Chua said.