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Poverty level remains unchanged since 2006 – government survey

Economic indicators may show the country is getting richer, but the poor remain poor. The ratio of poor Filipinos to the overall population leveled off at 27.9 percent during the first half of 2012 from 28.6 percent in the same period in 2009, National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert said in a press briefing Tuesday. However, compared to the 2006 ratio of 28.8 percent, the NSCB noted there was no statistical difference. “Comparing this with the 2006 and 2009 first semester figures estimated at 28.8 percent and 28.6 percent, respectively, poverty remained unchanged as the computed differences are not statistically significant,” NSCB noted in a statement. Based on the The Family Income and Expenditures Survey, the Philippines tracks the poverty rate once every three years.

“Filipino families in extreme poverty whose incomes aren’t enough to meet basic food needs stands at 10 percent in the 1st half of 2012,” NSCB said. On average, 28 in every 100 Filipinos were poor in the last six years. Floating above poverty What has changed is that a family of five needs more to leave the ranks of the poor. To meet basic food needs, a family of five needs P5,458 every month. To stay above the poverty threshold—or meeting basic food and non-food needs—the family needs to collectively earn P7,821. In 2006, a family of five needed only P1,681 in 2006 and P2,042 in 2009 to move out of poverty. The NSCB pointed out that during the first semester of 2012, “a Filipino family of five needed P5,458 to meet basic food needs every month and P7,821 to stay above the poverty threshold every month. “These respective amounts represent the food and poverty thresholds, which increased by 11.1 percent from the first semester of 2009 to the first half of 2012, compared to the 26.0 percent-increase between the 1st semesters of 2006 and 2009.” By region, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao has the highest poverty incidence in the first half of 2012 at 52.9 percent. Region XII and Region VIII followed with poverty incidences of 45.8 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively. The National Capital Region registered the lowest poverty incidence at 5.4 percent, followed by Region IV-A (14.3 percent) and Region III (15.6 percent). Unwanted statistics The poverty statistics were “not the dramatic results that we wanted,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. “The rural sector lags behind because of the lack of focus and private sector involvement in agriculture,” he said. But National Anti-Poverty Commission chair Joel Rocamora said that by the end of President Benigno Aquino III's term government programs “will already have statistical impact.” The government targets poverty incidence to drop by 16 percent in 2016. Balisacan said the poverty figures will be lessened should the private sector funnel investments needed in the countryside and support government inroads towards developing the agro-industrial and fisheries sector. Moreover, Balisacan said poverty incidence will gradually go down should effects of private investments kick-in. “The real challenge here is to get the private sector to respond to the government’s initiatives,” he said, noting that private sector investments were negative until the second half of 2012 – which is still not reflected in the recent poverty statistics.  Balisacan noted the need to develop the manufacturing sector, power and transport infrastructure in order for the country to move up the value chain.   The latest survey confirms that economic growth is still not felt by majority of Filipinos, Sonny Africa, executive director of research group IBON Foundation, told GMA News Online. "Growth remains exclusionary which means hindi nag-be-benefit ang largest number of Filipinos," said Africa. The poverty incidence in this country and the Labor Department's  announcement that there will be no wage increase on May 1 also belie reports of stock market record-highs and a credit rating of investment grade, he said. "It's very striking na amidst these economic good news 'yung pinaka-bottomline for the Filipino majority of increasing income, hindi nagma-materialize," Africa added. Private pollsters To track the “effectiveness of government development and anti-poverty programs,” the government survey will be released every six months starting this year, said Balisacan. Thus, data for the second half of 2012 will be released in the third quarter of 2013 instead of 2015. As official poverty numbers in the past were done every three years, stakeholders like the media and research outfits had no choice but to source statistics from private pollsters—such as the Social Weather Stations (SWS), which conduct self-rated poverty surveys  based on the experience of respondents. In its latest survey released last January, the SWS noted 54 percent or 10.9 million families consider themselves as “mahirap” or poor, with perception of  poverty rising natiowide except in the Visayas. Unlike government statistics which measure the income and expenses of Filipino families, most private pollsters simply ask families how they see themselves: Not poor, on the poverty line, or poor? — TJD/VS, GMA News