GROSS domestic product grew 7.1% in the third quarter of 2021 despite tighter pandemic restrictions imposed in various parts of the country. During the same period, the number of families who considered themselves poor decreased. However, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) Third Quarter Self-Reported Poverty Survey also showed that while the percentage of Filipino families who felt poor fell from 48% in June to 45% – 11.4 million of families – in September, those who felt “not poor” also fell from 23 percent to 21 percent. Thirty-four percent – one-third of the population – consider themselves to be âbordering on poorâ.
Self-rated poor people in the Visayas fell from 70 percent in June to 54 percent (below pre-pandemic levels) in September. The ânot poorâ represented only 4%. The rest – 42% – described themselves as âbordering on poorâ. In comparison, the ânot poorâ proportion of the population in Metro Manila and (Libra) Luzon was 37% and 30%, respectively. Mindanao’s self-rated poverty rate fell from 51% to 58% (above pre-pandemic levels), while the proportion of families who did not feel âpoorâ changed little: from 7 % in June to 8% in September.
Yes, these numbers reflect the subjective self-assessment of economic status by Filipino families. But they are revealing of the situation on the ground. Social media, on the other hand, shows campaign candidates posing as wedding sponsors, attending gastronomic events with other members of the political elite, or distributing money to crowds of ordinary Filipinos who rape health protocols for a chance to receive âblessingsâ from applicants. Huge tarpaulins hover over highways and urban misery as advertisements flood online news and television. Candidates for national office spend billions of pesos campaigning while 79 percent of Filipino families are poor or bordering on poverty.
The gap between what poor self-rated families earn and what they need to be able to purchase enough food has widened: âThe self-rated food poverty gap is widening in all regions except the Visayas â, found SWS. The difference or the gap is substantial: poor families need twice as much money in order to be able to purchase sufficient quantity and quality of food. Imagine what the situation would be without the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino (4Ps) government program. This social protection program helps around 4 million families to fight against hunger.
4Ps is an important step towards realizing the Duterte administration’s AmBisyon Natin 2040 vision, according to which all Filipinos will enjoy a comfortable and safe life by 2040. Despite the economic and social setbacks caused by the Covid pandemic -19 and the resignation of AmBisyon Architect Natin Ernesto Pernia in April last year, the National Authority for Economy and Development (NEDA) still considers him a guiding star for development planning. Karl Kendrick Chua, who replaced Pernia as Secretary for Socio-Economic Planning, has identified four key areas that NEDA will focus on to provide the next administration with the foundation needed to achieve AmBisyon Natin 2040: infrastructure, innovation, equity regional and climate change. Climate change, according to Secretary Chua, “sets the backdrop for all present and future development challenges” (press release, November 23, 2021). Climate change affects the lives of millions of Filipinos and is likely to affect many more and in more complex ways.
Less abstract and complex African swine fever (ASF) has created misery for pig farmers, meat traders and consumers. Since the first outbreak in July 2019, ASF has spread to more than 50 provinces. The most recent outbreaks were reported in Marinduque (October), M’lang in northern Cotabato and Maigo and Bacolod in Lanao del Norte (November), according to data from the United Nations for the ‘Food and Agriculture, or FAO (November 25, 2021). Amid the pandemic, prices for pork products have skyrocketed. While pork inflation slowed in October, it was still 23.3%, down from 36.4% in September (NEDA, November 5, 2021). Considering that pork accounts for 15.1% of the energy intake of active Filipinos aged 19 to 59, just behind rice at 35.6% (Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa and Ma. Rosel Custodio, April 2020), the enormous Pork price increases have contributed significantly to the hardships of millions of Filipino families.
The Agdeppa-Custodio study, “Food Sources and Nutritional Intakes of Working Filipino Adults,” concluded that Filipinos generally have unhealthy and unhealthy diets with too much fat, oil and salt while “the consumption of fruit and vegetables was only 30% and 40% of the recommended dietary allowance, respectively. Vegetables and fruits are relatively expensive in the Philippines, the main reason we don’t get enough of them. No money, poor nutrition, lack of energy and, in children, developmental delay, poor learning, lack of opportunities to get well-paying jobs, lack of income, poor nutrition, and thus the vicious cycle of poverty continues indefinitely. In the noise of the countryside, the commitment and vision to break this cycle are hard to detect. Could it be that politicians prefer a population still living on the brink of insecurity rather than a population that benefits from “Matatag, Maginhawa and Panatag na Buhay?”