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5.5M Pinoys joined ranks of poor in 2008 - NAPC

The number of Filipinos who can be considered poor has significantly increased to 17.5 million this year from 12 million in 2007, a recent study of the National Anti Poverty Commission (NAPC) has revealed.

NAPC attributed the 45.8-percent jump to the record high increase of petroleum prices in the world market and the global rise in prices of food, particularly the rice staple.

“Noong magtaas ang presyo ng langis at nagkaroon ng pagtaas sa presyo ng bigas, medyo nadagdagan ng kaunti ang ating mga kababayang mahirap (When oil and rise prices rose, the number of our poor compatriots also increased)," NAPC Secretary Domingo Panganiban said in an interview with GMA News’ John Consulta.

According to NAPC, one can be considered poor if his total daily income is lower than P166 or the total household income is lower than P5,000 monthly.

The report said NAPC has provided a list of places considered as “hot spots" or places that have a considerable number of poor people.

These are the provinces of Masbate, Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Mt. Province, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Samar, plus the National Capital Region (Metro Manila).

NAPC noted that half of these places are located in Mindanao, while there are at least two million poor families in Metro Manila alone.

According to the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), Port Area in Manila has the highest poverty incidence with 13.7 percent of its residents considered poor.

San Nicolas, also in Manila, placed second with 8.93 poverty incidence rate. This was followed by Intramuros in Manila with 7.97%; Navotas town with 7.41%; Tondo, Manila, 6.73%; Taguig City, 5.23%; Caloocan City, 5.16%; Malabon 5.10%; Valenzuela 4.4; and San Miguel in Manila with 4.37 %.

‘Poorest municipality’

Meanwhile, Siayan in Zamboanga del Norte province was declared by the NSCB as the poorest municipality in the country with a 97.5 poverty incidence rate, or only three out of its 100 residents could be considered well-off.

This was followed by Tanudan in Kalinga, 88.1%; Sominot in Zamboanga del Sur, 87.5%; Tangkal in Lanao del Norte, 86.7%; Midsalip in Zamboanga del Sur, 86.3%; Bagulin in La Union, 85.5%; Leon B. Postigo (formerly Bacungan) in Zamboanga del Norte, 85.5%; Jose Abad Santos in Davao del Sur and Godod in Zamboanga del Norte, both with 84.6%; Lapuyan in Zamboanga del Sur, 84.3%; and San Luis in Agusan del Sur, 83.1%.

For the provincial level, the NSCB cited Western Samar in the Eastern Visayas region as the province with the highest poverty incidence in the country, with 68 percent of its total residents considered living under poverty level.

Next is Agusan del Sur with a 64-percent incidence, followed by Masbate at 61.3%. Zamboanga del Norte and Surigao del Norte were next with 55.9% poverty incidence rate.

In conducting the survey, the NSBC used the small area poverty estimate model to predict the poverty incidence and the literacy rate of the breadwinner as its major basis for predicting the person’s economic status.

This was followed by the ownership of residence, their quality of housing, which includes their access to sanitary toilet, access to electricity, and their house roofing.

‘What to do’

In its recommendation, the NSCB asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to consider the listed poorest places as priority for government programs.

“Dapat pagbutihin talaga ang mga anti-poverty program kaya madalas dalas din ang meeting ni Presidente sa anti-poverty commission (We should really improve our anti-poverty programs. This is why the President regularly meets the anti-poverty commission)," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

NSCB Secretary-General Romulo Virola said the government can now take its pro-poor programs down the municipality level from the present national level.

“Ngayon na meron tayong poor municipality and rich municipalities, (Now that we have identified the poor and rich municipalities) the poverty intervention programs can now go down to the municipality level," he said.

Assistant Secretary Florita Villar of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Program Policy Group said the department will use the study as basis in implementing social assistance programs.

“Gagamitin naming reference itong 40 poorest municipalities. Ito ang uunahin natin (We will use this study as our reference to address the 40 poorest municipalities)," she said.

Some lawmakers disagree with the pro-poor programs of the government, saying its not a solution to alleviate poverty.

Manila Rep. Bienvenido Abante said the government should inform the poor sector how they can avail themselves of these benefits.

“Our people should know and must be well-informed kung ano ba ‘yung mga anti-poverty programs na ‘yan. Kung paano sila makakakuha at kung ano ang kanilang gagawin (Our people should be informed how they can avail themselves of these poverty programs)," Abante said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño said that the poor sector needs a higher salary income and not the “one-shot subsidies," or the dole-out programs of the government.

“The people need programs like the P125 across the board wage increase and not the one time subsidy programs of the government," Casiño said.

Economists also say it’s impossible for the government to alleviate the country’s poverty situation without first addressing the country’s education, unemployment, and population problems.

“Kung ang isang nanay ang natapos niya lang ay mababa pa sa high school malamang ang anak niya ay anim o pito. ‘Pag ang nanay naman nakatapos ng kolehiyo ang anak niya lang ay dalawa. So doon palang makikita niyo na (If a mother’s educational attainment is not higher than secondary education, most likely she will have five or six children. But if a mother was able to finish college, she will probably have two kids. So from here you’ll see the difference)," said Prof. Benjamin Diokno of the UP College of Economics. - (Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV)

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