Gil Dy-Liacco, Development Assistance Specialist in USAID/Philippines’ Office of Program Resources Management
How would you describe extreme poverty in the Philippines?
In 2012, extreme poverty in the Philippines was estimated at 19.2 percent of the population, or about 18.4 million people, based on the international poverty line of $1.25 per day. Most of the poor in the Philippines live in rural areas and work in the agriculture sector, mainly in farming and fishing. Urban poverty, however, has been increasing in recent years. Migrants without jobs or with low-paying jobs are unable to afford decent housing. As a result, Philippine cities have high proportions of informal settlers who are among the poorest of the poor.
Moreover, poverty is severe in parts of the country with high levels of conflict. The Philippines’ 10 poorest provinces are considered either conflict-affected or vulnerable to conflict.
The poor in the Philippines have families of six or more members, with greater numbers of younger and older dependents. In the majority of poor families, the head of household has only an elementary education or below. These families have few or no assets and minimal access to electricity, water sources and toilet facilities. They also have limited access to health and education services.
Among Philippine citizens, the poor are most vulnerable to financial and price shocks and natural disasters. Often their efforts to cope with these shocks and make up for lost livelihoods and income result in deeper levels of indebtedness.
What do you see as some of the biggest challenges to ending extreme poverty in the Philippines? What have been the most promising efforts so far in reducing extreme poverty?
In the Philippines, the key challenges to ending extreme poverty are the same as the country’s development challenges: weak governance and a lack of fiscal space, which reflect pervasive corruption, elite capture and state capture; inadequate education and health services; the persistence of armed conflict in the southern island of Mindanao; inadequate natural resources management; and increased frequency and intensity of natural disasters.
The country’s long history of policy distortions has led to patterns of growth that have failed to provide good jobs to the majority of Filipinos. Cities in the Philippines have not been able to keep pace with the explosive growth of urban populations, as evidenced in infrastructure and housing deficiencies, traffic congestion and environmental pollution. The private sector’s reluctance to invest and create more and better quality jobs reflects the country’s weak investment climate for firms of all sizes.
The Government of the Philippines currently provides targeted direct assistance to the extremely poor through social protection programs. Through a conditional cash transfer program, extremely poor families receive cash assistance when they fulfill requirements for free, government-provided child immunizations and enroll their children in school. In order to fund and implement its universal health program and improve access to basic education, the Government of the Philippines is aggressively accelerating revenue collection, improving public expenditure management and addressing constraints to effective local governance.
At the same time, the Government of the Philippines recognizes that ending extreme poverty requires strategies and programs aimed at sustaining inclusive, resilient growth. USAID, through the U.S.-Philippines Partnership for Growth, is helping the Government of the Philippines address binding constraints to inclusive growth by improving the quality of policies, regulations and their implementation; strengthening rule-of-law and anti-corruption measures; improving fiscal performance; and promoting human capacity development. USAID supports efforts to help the secondtier cities outside of Metro Manila to become effective engines of growth in their localities and surrounding areas.
USAID is fostering peace and stability in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, where many of the country’s poor reside. USAID is enhancing environmental resilience through programs that mitigate the impact of natural disasters, so as to minimize the impact on the poor, who are disproportionately affected by these disasters. USAID is also implementing programs that improve access to quality education and health services. Finally, through humanitarian assistance work in disaster- and conflict-affected areas, USAID is supporting efforts to restore immediate access—especially for the poor—to basic services.
Data Sources and References:
Asian Development Bank – Poverty in the Philippines: Causes, Constraints and Opportunities, December 2009
National Economic and Development Authority – Mid-Term Update of the Philippine Development Plan, April 2014
Philippine Statistics Authority – National Statistical Coordination Board
Social Weather Stations
USAID/Philippines Country Development Cooperation Strategy, 2012-2016
World Bank: Country Partnership Strategy for the Republic of the Philippines for the Period FY 2015-2018, May 2014
The views expressed in this Q&A are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily represent the views of the United States Agency for International Development or the United States Government.
The attainment of the Millennium Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2000 is expected to pave the way for the adoption of the new sustainable development agenda
INEQUALITY. The United Nations report finds that inequality exists, leaving significant gaps between social classes. File photo by Francis R. Malasig/EPA
MANILA, Philippines – The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) deadline has passed, and what now?
According to the final MDG report launched by the United Nations (UN) on Tuesday, July 7, the “success” in meeting set goals will pave the way for the new sustainable development agenda being adopted in 2015.
The annual assessment of global and regional progress found that the 15-year effort to achieve the goals set during the Millennium Declaration in 2000 was “largely successful” globally.
Goal-setting, the UN report confirms, can relieve the world of its problems such as poverty, hunger, and social inequality, among others. Targeted interventions, strategies, adequate resources, and firm political will are important in attaining progress, even in the poorest sector.
“The MDGs have greatly contributed to this progress and have taught us how governments, business and civil society can work together to achieve transformational breakthroughs,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
Decreased poverty, hunger
The goals set produced the “most successful anti-poverty movement in history,” the report said, and it will now serve as a “springboard” to realize the post-2015 agenda.
The population living in extreme poverty has been halved. From 1990’s 1.9 billion, there are now 836 million people surviving with only $1.25 (P56.39)* a day, with progress recorded mostly since 2000.
In 2015 alone, it is estimated that 175 million are going to be lifted out of poverty.
Meanwhile, the number of people suffering from hunger and undernourishment has decreased throughout the 15 years.
The prevalence of undernourishment among children under 5 years old has been halved from 1990’s 31% to 2015’s 16%. This pulls down underweight children from one in 5 to only one in 7 children.
The decline, according to the report, is continuous but “not fast enough” and will need more push in the years to come.
Inequality among countries and social classes however remain constant. This leaves significant gaps that may hinder developing countries from attaining progress and eventual eradication of hunger and poverty. (READ: ADB: Specter of inequality to haunt strong PH economy)
The world’s poorest are distributed “very unevenly” across regions and countries. An overwhelming majority of people who try to survive under the poverty line – 80 % of the global total of extremely poor people – can be found in two regions: Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Meanwhile, 490 million people or two-thirds of the global population of people suffering from hunger reside in Asia Pacific despite successfully achieving the target. (READ: Asia Pacific still home to most of world’s undernourished – report)
Far from over
It cannot be denied, however, that extreme poverty still exists despite the “enormous” progress achieved. Almost 800 million people are still burdened by hunger and poverty, limiting their potential.
These people are more likely to still suffer from risks due to health disadvantages, child and maternal mortality, elevated school dropout rates, and inadequate sanitation. In fact, the report added that about 16,000 children die each day before they reach their 5th birthday due to these factors.
The target of halving the population might have been met but the UN admits the world is far from eradicating poverty and hunger – at least a generation more.
“Following profound and consistent gains, we now know that extreme poverty can be eradicated within one more generation,” Ban Ki-moon said.
In addition, those who have successfully managed to be pulled out of the poverty and hunger trap are still very vulnerable and their relief are deemed temporary. They can be pushed back again due to looming factors such as economic shocks, food insecurity, and climate change.
To address this, leaders around the world have called for an “ambitious” long-term sustainable agenda post-MDG that would build on its success.
“The emerging post-2015 development agenda, including the set of Sustainable Development Goals, strives to build on our successes and put all countries, together, firmly on track towards a more prosperous, sustainable and equitable world,” Ban Ki-moon explained. – Rappler.com
Published 3:05 PM, July 07, 2015
Updated 12:50 PM, September 21, 2015