Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

High Birth rate = Lack of Classrooms

Last March 25, 2007 (Sunday), an article by Michael Lim Ubac was published in Inquirer. This article is short but very relevant that it had to be blogged... =) Read on...

High birth rate = classroom lack’
By Michael Lim Ubac, Inquirer
Last updated 02:41am (Mla time) 03/25/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- As long as population growth is not reined in, government will never be able to wipe out classroom backlogs, according to Education Secretary Jesli Lapus. At the roundtable discussion with President Macapagal-Arroyo on the issues of hunger and poverty on Thursday, the education chief pointed to the relevance of population management in solving the perennial classroom shortage.

“Every minute, four babies are born. In my limited point of view on this classroom shortage, it’s like every 10 minutes, I’m short one classroom,” said Lapus. The projected population growth for 2007 is 8.7 million based on an annual growth rate of 2 percent. This places the current Philippine population at 88.7 million.
President Arroyo, however, has frowned on proposals to intensify birth control measures in the face of stiff opposition from the Catholic Church. She then shifted the discussion to her administration’s increased budget for education. She said the government had money to build 14,000 classrooms this year. She also talked about “ladderized education” in which high school students are encouraged to take up vocational courses instead of going on to college. “We all know that even if a child is not that bright, among the great Filipino dream(s) of parents is (for their children) to have a college education,” she said.

The President said blue-collar jobs like welding and butchering animals were not only in-demand but were also high-paying jobs abroad. “We really need more technical people than management people. College is usually for management people,” Ms Arroyo said. Lapus stressed that as the National Career Assessment Examination taken last month showed, more than half of the 1.3 million senior high school students in both the public and private schools did not qualify for a college education.

“There’s really a mismatch,” said Lapus, because most Filipinos want a college diploma. “So we have 1.1 million college graduates who are jobless, but we have 650,000 jobs unfilled.”

Sunday, March 25, 2007

GMA accepts SWS poll results, releases P500M to stem hunger

Ok, it's good that PGMA acknowledges that there exists a high incidence of poverty and hunger and budget has been released for "programs" addressing the concern. However, these actions are still "band-aid" initiatives in addressing the issue. Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger is the first of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), but as UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan puts it: "The Millenium Development Goals (MDGs), particularly the Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger cannot be achieve if questions of Population and Reproductive Health are not squarely addressed."

It's basic - in a family where there are more mouths to feed, the lesser food each mouth receives.

If the government is serious in its mission, access to RH care and services and a comprehensive population management program/policy must be passed and implemented soon before every Filipino "miss meals"; not because we are too busy, but simply because we have to, and there's nothing we can do about it.
GMA accepts SWS poll results, releases P500M to stem hunger
By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Inquirer Breaking News: Last updated 06:13pm (Mla time) 03/24/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has finally accepted the results of the survey on hunger by the Social Weather Stations and ordered the release of P500 million for "emergency hunger mitigation'' in areas found to have a high incidence of hunger among the people.

After questioning the SWS survey on hunger, which showed that one in every five Filipino families or 3.4 million households have gone hungry at least once in the last three months, the President apparently decided to confront the problem.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde said in an announcement he made on a government radio station Saturday that the President ordered the release of the money after convening the National Nutrition Council in Malacañang on Friday.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said that with the signing of the P1.126 trillion 2007 national budget, the government is now ready to release P10 billion for the rehabilitation of typhoon-ravaged areas in Bicol, Southern Tagalog, and some parts of the Visayas.

The President ordered the release of P500 million for the food-for-school, food-for-work, and for the feeding programs of parishes and non-governmental organizations, Remonde said. He said the program would benefit areas identified by the SWS as having a high incidence of hunger, mostly in Metro Manila.

Arroyo said in her roundtable forum Saturday that the government's barangay (village) food terminals, or "bagsakan'' centers, where the poor can avail themselves of lower-priced food and other basic commodities, would benefit some 200,000 of 700,000 hungry families in Metro Manila by next month.

“The result of the SWS survey is a wake-up call (for the administration) because the economy is really doing well. For the President, what is the use of the economy doing good if people are hungry,” Remonde said in a phone interview with the Inquirer.

According to Remonde, during the two-hour NNC meeting at Malacanang's Aguinaldo Room, some Cabinet members continued to question the veracity of the SWS findings during Friday’s two-hour meeting of the National Nutrition Council at Malacanang's Aguinaldo Room. The February 24 to 27 SWS survey also found that the problem of hunger worsened in Metro Manila and the rest of Luzon.

"While there are some Cabinet members who questioned the survey, the President said, `Let's not quibble over that. As long as there's one person who is hungry the government should do something about that,''' Remonde said.

"She cracked the whip on all the frontline agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, to boost food production,'' Remonde said.

Among those called to Friday’s meeting were the secretaries of agriculture, social welfare and development, health, trade and industry, and education, Remonde said.

He said the President designated Health Secretary Francisco Duque III as her point man to oversee the implementation of the "emergency hunger mitigation'' program.

Remonde said the government intervention would be through the food-for-school program, where bags of rice and other food items are given to school children as an incentive to their attending school; the food-for-work program where the poor and unemployed are hired by the government to sweep the streets and do other community work; and the food-for-parishes program of the Catholic Church and other religious groups and organizations serving meals to children or adults in various parts of Metro Manila.

While Remonde said the President ordered the emergency hunger mitigation program in response to the SWS survey, the President herself seemed to doubt the SWS findings in Metro Manila.

After the SWS survey came out, Arroyo said the incidence of hunger could also be attributed to the "spending pattern'' of the people, whom she asked to "spend on the basics first'' before spending on luxuries. A day later, she questioned the question posed by the SWS to its respondents, saying she herself had experienced hunger at least once.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

GMA says self-rated poverty lowest since Marcos era

culled from:

The Philippine Star-Marvin Sy

President Arroyo argued on Friday that, while self-rated poverty has not gone down since the last survey in November, it is still the lowest among the five administrations since Marcos.
Interviewed by the Japanese Jiji Press at Malacañang, the President said her administration’s efforts in reducing poverty have resulted in the lowest SRP since 1983.

"Yes, it has not gone down from the last survey but if you look at five administrations, it’s the lowest," the President said. She said her vision for the country extends beyond her term in such a way that, by 2020, the Philippines will be a first world country: "By that time we would have dramatically reduced poverty."

In a statement, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the "official, concrete data on poverty incidence show a picture that is improving for each passing year." Malacañang data show that the average SRP rate has declined from 64.5 percent during the tenure of ousted President Ferdinand Marcos to 63.4 percent under Corazon Aquino, 62.2 percent under Fidel Ramos, 59.56 percent with Joseph Estrada and 57.32 percent under the Arroyo administration.

Poverty incidence, on the other hand, has gone down from 27.2 percent of families in 2000 to 23 percent in 2006, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). Cabinet secretary Ricardo Saludo said that, in terms of individuals, the decline from 27.2 percent to 23 percent represents a reduction of 5.5 million from the ranks of poor Filipinos, meaning 19.9 million families were affected by poverty in 2006.

Saludo added that, under the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan, the government intends to reduce the number of poor families to 16.8 million by 2010. Based on the Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey on self-rated poverty, the nationwide figures on self-rated poverty showed little change from 52 percent in November last year to 53 percent in February this year.

Read the rest of the article

Friday, March 23, 2007

Family Planning does not win or lose votes

Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, March 13, 2007

Written by: ELY DE LEON, information officer, Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), Diliman, Quezon City

We were utterly disappointed with the way Antonio J. Montalvan II treated the Filipino voting public with his article titled "Pro-life, pro-death list." (Inquirer, 2/26/07) It was equally disappointing to hear a historian of his stature stooping so low to hurl unfounded accusations at legislators who are promoting better quality of life for Filipinos.

Modern technology has afforded us various conveniences, including easy access to various sources of information. It will not hurt to check the content of House Bills 3773 and 5285 for anything that has to do or is remotely related to euthanasia, abortion and divorce. The findings of a Pulse Asia survey showing the increasing number of Filipinos (69 to 82 percent) supportive of candidates favoring free choice of family planning methods for couples are also accessible to the public.

The survey also showed an 11-percentage-point increase in the number of Filipinos who said they would support candidates favoring a law or measure on family planning (from 71 percent in 2000 to 82 percent in 2004); and a 6-percentage-point increase in the number of those who said they would support candidates favoring a government budget for family planning (to 80 percent from 74 percent).

Similarly, the Family Planning Survey (FPS) and the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS), both conducted by the National Statistics Office, show that only half of married women are able to plan their families due to lack of information and proper knowledge on the various family planning methods. Filipinas, especially among the ranks of the poor, also bear more children than they desire, and they encounter difficulties in spacing their births.

The results of the 2004 elections have also proven that the inclusion of reproductive health and family planning in a candidate’s platform does not work against a candidate’s chances of winning, as all the national and local candidates who carried these issues gained fresh mandates from their constituents.

Some of the reelected legislators Montalvan mentioned in his column have consistently supported population and reproductive health initiatives. They include Representatives Josefina Joson, Nereus Acosta, Gilbert Remulla, Loretta Ann Rosales, Lorna Silverio, Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel, Mario Joyo Aguja, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, Emilio Macias, Jose Carlos Lacson, Nerissa Soon-Ruiz and Renato Magtubo.Our vote is our right and our power. We urge the Filipino voting public to exercise this right and power with much caution. Know your candidates well. Do not wholly rely on unsolicited advice given by people with limited views and dark-age mentality.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Atheist in the House

today's blogs: The latest chatter in cyberspace.

Atheist in the House By Michael Weiss

Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 5:28 PM ET

Bloggers celebrate the first openly atheist congressman, worry that YouTube will be all Lonelygirl videos and no *Daily Show* clips, and wonder what makes us laugh.

California Democratic Rep. Pete Stark has publicly acknowledged his atheism, making him the first congressman in American history to do so. Stark's announcement came after the Secular Coalition for America offered a $1,000 to anyone who could point to the "highest level atheist, agnostic,humanist or any other kind of nontheist currently holding elected public office in the United States."

Hugh Kramer at leftist *MyDD* pens an open letter to Stark: "I am not in your district and I do not know much about you personally or where you stand politically but it does not matter. I feel that you represent me in a way that my own congressman never has because I, like you, am a freethinker and a nontheist. In an environment where polls show that Americans without a god-belief are more distrusted than any other minority and that the majority of our countrymen would not vote for an atheist even if he or she were the most qualified for office, it takes a great deal of courage to take a public stance on this issue of conscience."

Environmentally conscious *Tod Brilliant*writes: "Now, let me ask the perhaps obvious follow-up question: Who do you value as a leader more highly - a person who makes decisions based on rationalism and the desire to do right by his or her fellow humans simply for the sake of doing right OR a person whose decisions are governed by the fear of eternal suffering in a lake of molten lava?"

Liberal Pastor Dan at *Street Prophets* magnanimously argues that atheists "deserve representation, and they deserve to be able to speak freely about their beliefs or not-beliefs. Unless we're going to toss 10% of the population out of office, then, it's an unqualified good for somebody like Stark to 'come out' … At best, my own United Church of Christ represents less than 1% of the population. With ten members of Congress'split between the two houses, we're over-represented."

And Rob Boston at *The Wall of Separation*, the blog of Americans United for a Separation of Church and State, writes:

"The U.S. Congress is increasingly diverse. This is a good thing because it means that this body more accurately reflects the great diversity of our nation. This year, there are Buddhists in the ranks, as well as the first Muslim member. Stark is probably not the first non-believer in the House — he's just the first to admit it."

Read more about Stark's announcement