The government remains steadfast in its commitment to significantly reduce poverty among Filipinos to a mere 9 percent by the time President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. concludes his term in 2028, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said on Thursday.
In a statement posted by the Palace, Neda Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the administration is prioritizing a multipronged approach and a whole-of-society strategy to tackle poverty.
Earlier, the Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) self-rated poverty survey showed almost half of Filipino families consider themselves living in poverty.
“We note that the SWS September survey was conducted after a series of typhoons hit the country, which also affected food prices and directly impacted families who lacked the means to cope with the increase in prices,” Balisacan said.
“As we noted earlier, poverty measures based on respondents’ perceptions are sensitive to inflation, particularly for essential commodities. Food inflation in September was higher than in June this year due to the supply disruptions,” he added.
To address the immediate needs of those affected, Balisacan said the government has put in motion a range of short-term measures.
He added that these measures include the launch of a food stamp program, elimination of pass-through fees for vehicles transporting goods, and the distribution of cash aid through the Rice Farmers Financial Assistance program, with a specific focus on the most economically disadvantaged individuals.
He added that the administration is focusing on policies and programs geared toward generating more high-quality jobs, recognizing this as the most robust and effective means of reducing poverty.
“This will involve expanding our markets, improving our infrastructure, and attracting more strategic investments, while also preparing the workforce with the necessary skills for the jobs that will be created,” Balisacan said.
He said the Marcos administration is also implementing measures to expedite these endeavors, such as the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the establishment of streamlined project approval procedures, the creation of green lanes for strategic investments, and various other initiatives aimed at modernizing agriculture, enhancing productivity, and bolstering market linkages.
“Given these strategies and our whole-of-society approach, we are optimistic that we can still reduce poverty incidence among Filipinos to 9 percent by 2028,” Balisacan said.
Even before the recent SWS survey on hunger and poverty, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had already instructed the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to come up with innovative programs to combat and end hunger and poverty in the country, DSWD Secretary Rex Gatchalian, for his part, said.
According to Gatchalian, the instruction to the DSWD is hinged on the President’s desire to end hunger and make a more inclusive country where no one is left behind.
“This is the reason why the DSWD came up with the Food Stamp Program [FSP], which was designed primarily to alleviate the lingering incidence of food poverty and malnutrition among low-income Filipino households through the provision of meal augmentation worth P3,000 on a monthly basis,” Gatchalian explained.
The FSP is currently in its pilot run, and the scale-up of the program is slated for mid-2024.
The FSP will benefit a total of 1 million families who are classified as “food poor” in accordance to the criteria and definitions set by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), along with pregnant and nursing mothers. The pilot areas include Tondo, Manila, and the regions of Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Caraga, and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).
The President, Gatchalian, added has already approved the regular budget of the FSP for 2024 to ensure that 1 million “food poor” families will continue to benefit under the FSP’s meal augmentation program.
“There is also the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or 4Ps, wherein 4.4 million ‘poorest of the poor’ households or 20 million individuals continue to benefit from the program through the monthly subsidy for their children’s education as well as the monthly health subsidy,” the DSWD chief pointed out.
Gatchalian said the 4.4 million families benefiting from the 4Ps plus the 1 million “food-poor” families under the FSP are expected to push down further the number of poor families in the coming months.
“This target of bringing down the number of people rating themselves as ‘poor’ is based on the positive note in the SWS survey showing that 25 percent of families rating themselves as ‘hindi mahirap’ or ‘not poor’ is a three-point increase from the June numbers,” the DSWD chief said.
The latest SWS survey showed that nearly half, or 48 percent, of Filipino families rated themselves as poor during the third quarter of the year. Conducted from September 28 to October 1, the SWS survey estimates that around 13.2 million families consider themselves poor— —higher than the 12.5 million estimated in June 2023.
The DSWD envisions all Filipinos to be free from hunger and poverty, to have equal access to opportunities, and to be enabled by a fair, just, and peaceful society.
“This DSWD vision is coupled with the mission to lead in the formulation, implementation, and coordination of social welfare and development policies and programs for and with the poor, vulnerable, and disadvantaged,” Gatchalian said.