28 out of 100 Filipinos are living in poverty - gov't

By Ira Pedrasa, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Apr 23 2013 09:53 AM | Updated as of Apr 24 2013 03:20 AM

Agri, infra to help bring down poverty incidence

Rocamora: We expect questions from the opposition

MANILA - The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) reported on Tuesday that the poverty incidence, or the share of the population whose income is below poverty line, is barely unchanged at 27.9% for the first semester of 2012 compared to the 2006 and 2009 data.
This means that around 28 out of 100 families are living in poverty.
Poverty incidence for the first half of 2009 was at 28.6%; and 28.8% for the first half of 2006. Officials said the differences are not statistically significant.
The last that NSCB issued the poverty incidence data was for full year 2009, which was pegged at 26.5%. The very first half semester for 2012 data is consistent with directives from Socio-Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan for a timely release.
In a press conference, NSCB Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert noted that the prices of food as well as income were barely unchanged during the periods cited. He also noted as a “positive event” the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which increased coverage to 3.1 million in 2012 from 777,505 households in 2009.
NCR, Calabarzon and Central Luzon remains to be the least poor during the first semesters of 2006, 2009 and 2012. NCR reported a poverty incidence of 3.8% in the first half of 2012.
ARMM remains to have the highest poverty incidence at 46.9% in first half of 2012 from 42% in first half of 2009 and 43% in first half of 2006.
CARAGA was the most improved at 34% for first semester of 2012. It was above 40% for 2006 and 2009.
Poverty threshold
Trickled down further, the data means that a Filipino family of five needs P5,458 per month to sustain their basic food needs. To include other basic nonfood needs, the family should have P7,821 monthly income.
To move out of poverty, the family would be needing another P2,292 per month.
The Philippines posted an economic growth of 6.6% in 2012, bolstered by domestic demand.
Some economists said the growth is not inclusive, as can be gleaned from observations and complaints from the public.
National Anti-Poverty Commission chief Joel Rocamora said he already expects raising of eyebrows especially from the “opposition.”
“It’s easy to say that the government is doing a lot…pero yung mga nakakatanggap ng CCT, di nila sinasabi na walang impact ito sa buhay nila…Baka ang impatient ay hindi ang mahirap, but the middle class,” he said.
Balisacan said the government has to think of the long term, which could be more effective in meeting the deadline set by the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The Philippines is required to halve its poverty by 2015.
Balisacan cited, among others, government spending in agriculture, health, education and infrastructure.
“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 that were undertaken during the second half of 2012,” he said.
He said there is a need to focus on infrastructure, which failed to stimulate the interest of the private investors some years back. “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.”
Infrastructure is only 5% of the country’s GDP.
Coco levy
Rocamora, for his part, said there is a need to tap the P70 billion coco levy funds parked in banks to spur farmers’ production. Plus interests, the fund should now be about P80 to P90 billion.
Balisacan agreed, noting the coconut industry’s potential in job generation.
Besides the coconut industry, Balisacan sees the need to improve the production of the agriculture sector.
“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.