Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Poor Pinoy, Still Suffering From Poverty!

Muslim refugees in Mindanao island in southern Philippines continue to suffer because of sporadic clashes between security and rebel forces. Non-government organizations have appealed for food and medicines for refugees now in temporary shelters in the Muslim autonomous region. (Mindanao Examiner Photo/Mark Navales)

MAGUINDANAO (Mindanao Examiner / 28 Mar) – Despite government promises of more jobs and secure future, many Filipinos are still living below the poverty line and a survey by the independent Social Weather Stations (SWS) has proven this.

The SWS said fifty-three percent of household heads rated their families as poor in the First Quarter 2007 survey. Self-Rated Poverty declined by 15 points in Metro Manila, from 54% last November to 39% in February.

The 54% was above the long-term average in the capital region, while the 39% is more or less average, it said.

On the other hand, Self-Rated Poverty rose in Luzon outside Metro Manila, from 48% to 53%, in the Visayas, from 55% to 59%, and in Mindanao, from 54% to 57%.The net result was that Self-Rated Poverty stayed virtually unchanged at the national level, being 52% last November and 53% in February.

The Self-Rated Poverty Threshold, which is the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor, has been sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation, indicating that poor families have been lowering their living standards.

The Median Self-Rated Poverty threshold of poor families declined in Metro Manila, from P12,000 last November to P10,000 in February - an amount that had already been reached in surveys as early as ten years ago.

The current median thresholds -- P6,000 in both Balance Luzon and the Visayas, and P5,000 in Mindanao -- had already been recorded as early as 8 years ago, even though the cost of living has risen very greatly since then.When referring specifically to the food they eat, 39% of Filipino families consider themselves as poor and twenty-six percent put themselves on the Food-Borderline, and 35% consider themselves as Not Food-Poor.

At the national level, Self-Rated Food Poverty hardly moved from 40% last November to 39% last month. It declined by 14 points in Metro Manila, from 45% to 31%, but went up by five points in Mindanao, from 41% to 46%.Self-Rated Food Poverty barely changed in the rest of Luzon, from 37% to 38%, and in the Visayas, from 42% to 40%.

Household heads' reports about their own poverty in general, their own food-poverty, and their own hunger are internally consistent.The February survey has hunger at 26% among the Self-Rated Poor.

This is double the 13% among the Not Poor, and 9% among those on the Borderline.Among the Self-Rated Food Poor, the proportion of households experiencing hunger in the past three months is 30%, almost triple the 12% in both the Not Food-Poor and the Food-Borderline. As a concept, poverty allows for various degrees of deprivation.

Those who suffer from hunger are much more deprived than those who simply suffer from poverty.SWS said the latest report on Hunger was released on March 19.

Opposition politicians and militant party list groups also criticized the Arroyo government for its failure to uplift the living standards of the Filipinos.

MalacaƱang said the administration’s "well-planned, focused strategic and immediate programs" and not the opposition’s "political noise and hot air" would feed the Filipinos.

"This administration serves a plate of concrete solutions backed up by hard work while the opposition continues to serve a plate of innuendo backed by empty promises," Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio Bunye said.

Bunye was reacting to the opposition’s criticism on the administration’s programs to mitigate hunger and fight poverty and the accusation that President Gloria Arroyo was electioneering when she ordered the release of the P1-billion anti-hunger fund.

He said there are two points on the issue on hunger and poverty: transparency in the Arroyo administration’s implementation of vital social programs, and the opposition’s alternative (anti-hunger and anti-poverty) program, if they have any.

Bunye stressed that the Arroyo administration employs "full transparency in the implementation of its vital social programs" even as he sought the active participation of the opposition in the implementation (of these programs), or better yet offer a better alternative.

"First, we have always offered full transparency in the implementation of vital social programs and the opposition is welcome not only to look into our anti-poverty and anti-hunger projects, but also to actively participate in them," he said.

"Second, we would like to ask if the opposition has a clear and specific anti-hunger and anti-poverty campaign that offers a better alternative to our own," he added.

Bunye lamented that the opposition refused to participate and has "only dished out the sweeping accusations and wild allegations."Arroyo has previously launched various pro-poor programs, from food terminals to cheap medicines in villages across the country.

But Editha Duterte, of the militant party list group Anakpawis in Southern Mindanao, said those programs will not help alleviate the poverty situation, especially in the southern region.“Thinking that hunger will be wiped out in just six months through school feeding program, food terminals, government rolling stores, and providing cheap medicines through ‘Botika sa Barangay’ is plain insanity.”

”Can’t the Palace give intelligent solutions to our poverty problems? Is this the best thing they can offer after telling us to cut down from our luxuries when we don’t even have enough money for our basic needs?,” she asked. (With a report from Mark Navales)

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