Manila, Philippines - A Social Weather Station (SWS) survey conducted in March 2012 reported that 28.3% of its respondents -- equivalent to an estimated 4.8 million families -- experienced hunger in the past few months.
In a related poll, a 10-point increase in self-rated poverty was observed, reaching 61% in the Visayas and 72% in Mindanao.
The figures reflect an unfortunate array of shocks that have recently beset the country. Typhoon Sendong ravaged Mindanao late last year. In February, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.9 on the Richter scale devastated Negros Oriental.
Recent oil price hikes have also resulted in fare price increases, while food price hikes for basic commodities (like fish, dairy products, non-alcoholic beverages and selected fruits) have contributed to an increase in inflation rates. These factors have significantly affected the purchasing power of ordinary Filipinos.
Power shortages in Mindanao have further magnified the vulnerabilities experienced throughout the region.
In response, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has intensified its services to alleviate hunger and poverty. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino program, for instance, augments basic necessities and ensures the education and health of poor families. Cash-for-work and supplemental feeding programs are extended to those identified as being poor and hungry.
The provision of core shelter units and livelihood assistance to earthquake and typhoon survivors is also being fast-tracked. To date, 700 beneficiary families have been provided with shelter and livelihoods, and are now beginning new lives in permanent relocation sites. An additional 7,000 houses are also being built to provide the housing needed by the victims of typhoon Sendong. To assist the victims further, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) offers scholarships and training for victim-beneficiaries, while the Self Employment Assistance-Kaunlaran (SEA-K) of DSWD provides them with greater livelihood opportunities.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), already tasked with job-creation, is now providing assistance for economically displaced persons.
At the same time, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has been focusing on farm-to-market roads to ensure the mobility of food to and from the poorest regions in the country.
To prepare for future environment shocks, Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) has been launched by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as an innovation to prepare the country for natural calamities and lessen the damages they might bring.
Underemployment -- a significant factor in driving hunger spikes -- is caused by a variety of reasons: the loss of productive assets due to natural disasters, a shortage of water for irrigation or the enforcement of logging bans. Undersecretary Jude Esguerra of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) adds: “We believe that people on the ground can often have more nuanced diagnoses of their problems, which is why the Human Development Cluster has embarked upon the bottom-up planning and budgeting of 600 focus municipalities. This diversifies our poverty reduction approaches.” These poorest municipalities have been asked for solutions to their specific problems -- many of which revolve around underemployment and hunger -- and will be supported by the entire Cluster in their respective anti-poverty plans.
Despite fluctuations in people’s perceptions, the government’s commitment to growth and stability remains steadfast. Economic and environmental shocks notwithstanding, the long- term impact of these anti-poverty strategies will be felt, in time, as ordinary Filipinos finally begin to experience less poverty and hunger.
For any questions or comments, please contact:
Assistant Secretary Lila Ramos Shahani
Head of Communications
Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster
Tel: 931 8101 to 07, loc. 212