Philippines still poor, needs aid

Houses in a slum in the Philippines. Photo by: Jametiks / CC BY

Poverty incidence in the Philippines remained practically unchanged in the first semester of 2012 from six years ago, and foreign aid is still needed despite the country’s rapid economic growth.

Donors and international aid agencies can help the government tackle its top priority of job creation to reduce underemployment stemming from the high demographic growth, Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said as the National Statistical Coordination Board released on Tuesday the first official statistics on poverty since 2009.

In reply to a question from Devex, Balisacan explained that foreign aid is particularly welcome to develop the agriculture and tourism sectors as well as encourage investment in Mindanao, where Muslim rebels have signed a framework agreement with the government that could finally bring peace to the region after decades of conflict.

“Once we have secured finally peace in order in Mindanao, not only Mindanao but the rest of the country will prosper,” he said.

Balisacan added that the Philippine government is working on a new action plan against poverty to be presented later on in the year.

One of the key aspects of the draft program is expected to be additional measures for not only increasing productivity but adding value to agriculture activities, particularly coconut farming and fisheries.

“These are not the dramatic results that we wanted,” Balisacan admitted regarding the results of the national survey on poverty.

A total of 27.9 percent of Filipinos lived below the poverty line in the first semester of 2012 compared with 28.6 percent in the same period of 2009 and 28.8 percent in 2006.

The report said that a basic poor family of five needs another 2,292 Philippine pesos ($55.48) a month to move out of poverty in a country whose economy grew 6.6 percent in 2012 bolstered by domestic demand and was recently upgraded for the first time in its history to investment grade by ratings agency Fitch.

Multiplied by the total number of poor and including the 10 percent who live in extreme poverty, the amount needed to eradicate poverty in the country is 79.7 billion Philippine pesos, more than twice the annual budget allocated by the government to anti-poverty efforts.

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    Carlos Santamaria

    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.