Inquirer Headlines: Nation

A World with Extreme Poverty is a World of Insecurity.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cabinet meeting called to intensify anti-poverty programs

By Michael Lim Ubac, Cyril Bonabente
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 19:22:00 03/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Saddled by the increasing number of poor Filipinos under her watch, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo convened on Tuesday a full Cabinet meeting to monitor the progress of the government's hunger-mitigation programs.

The Cabinet meeting came on the heels of the latest Social Weather Stations survey showing that some 6.1 million households, or 34 percent of Filipino families in the last quarter of 2007, said they considered themselves poor in terms of food.

SWS said the figure was the lowest recorded since June 2004, when 35 percent of Filipino families said they were food-poor.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Anthony Golez said the meeting focused on the Arroyo administration's program of “enhancing activities addressing poverty.”

Golez said the number of poor people indeed increased despite government's intensified campaign to arrest hunger around the country.

The President told the Cabinet “to accelerate programs for milk, corn and wheat production, including spending on rural infrastructure -- irrigation, post-harvest facilities, cold storage facilities, decreasing the cost of transporting goods, including access to education, health and other social services.”

Arroyo, however, treated this disturbing figure as a temporary setback.

“The President expects the figures of poverty incidence would go to a steady downward trend especially after the 2008 budget has been signed, which will focus on investing more in our economy, education and environment,” said Golez.

The Fourth Quarter Social Weather Survey also showed signs that many Filipinos, or 34 percent, were tightening their belts and eating less.

The survey, conducted from November 30 to December 3, 2007, asked 1,200 adult household heads from all over the country to rate their families based on the type of food they eat and to rate themselves as poor, not poor, or somewhere in between.

Thirty-four percent said they were food-poor, another 34 percent said they were not, and the remaining 32 percent put themselves on the borderline.

By region: Self-rated food poverty declined in Mindanao (from 59 percent in September 2007 to 39 percent last December), Metro Manila (from 33 to 28 percent) and in Luzon (from 41 to 35 percent), but remained steady in the Visayas (from 33 to 32 percent).
Respondents were also asked: “In your opinion, how much money would your family need for food expenses each month in order not to be called poor anymore in terms of food?”

SWS found that the food poverty threshold for those who considered themselves food-poor failed to increase significantly. “[This] is a sign that the poor are actually lowering their real living standards,” SWS said.

Median thresholds for food-poor households went up slightly in Mindanao (from P3,000 in September to P4,000 in December) and Metro Manila (from P4,500 to P6,000), but stayed at P3,000 in Luzon and the Visayas.

“These levels had already been reached and surpassed several years ago,” SWS noted.