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Chiz: Review 4Ps amid rising poverty incidence

Sorsogon Gov. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. Contributed photo

Sorsogon Gov. Chiz Escudero is urging the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to review its roster of beneficiaries under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as poverty incidence in the country rose for the first time since 2012.

Escudero, a veteran legislator and now provincial chief executive, said there should have been a substantial increase in the budget for 4Ps in the 2022 budget ratified by Congress and submitted to the President.

Under the proposed National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2022, P115.7 billion was allocated for 4Ps, the same as its 2021 budget of PHP 115.6 billion. The 4Ps is the government’s main poverty reduction program through conditional cash transfer for the poorest families.

“Now is not the time to be scrimping on economic assistance for the poor because millions of Filipinos are still struggling with the impact of the pandemic, and we do not expect recovery anytime soon, if we’re being realistic,” Escudero, a senatorial aspirant, said.

During the Senate’s budget deliberations, it was revealed that 51,000 families have graduated from 4Ps, which covers some 4.4 million poor Filipino families. At 54%, the 4Ps account for the biggest chunk of the DSWD budget.

“There seems to be a disconnect in government poverty data and poverty strategy. There are over 10 million Filipinos who cannot afford to put food on the table and 4.2 million working-age Filipinos who do not have jobs. The DSWD should review its list of 4Ps beneficiaries because data show that more Filipinos are poor and need assistance,” Escudero said.

The latest Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) found that poverty incidence has gone up to 23.7% in the first half of 2021. The PSA defines poverty incidence as the “proportion of poor Filipinos whose per capita income is not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs.”

This means 26.14 million Filipinos lived below the poverty threshold of P12,082 monthly for a family of five in 2021, almost 2 million more than the 22.26 million poor Filipinos in 2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was the first time poverty incidence went up since the 2012 first-half FIES. Poverty incidence in the Philippines for the first-semester FIES was at 27.9% in 2012; 27.6% in 2015; and 21.1% in 2018, according to the PSA.

Subsistence incidence, or the proportion of Filipinos whose income is insufficient to meet even the basic food needs, was at 9.9%, translating to 10.94 million Filipinos who could not afford to feed their families. The 2021 FIES pegged the monthly food threshold for a family of five at P8,393.

“Marami ang nawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pandemya. Marami ang nagkasakit at namatayan. Ang kailangan ng mga Pilipino ay tulong at pag-asa. How can we strengthen the 4Ps with the same budget? How can we help local governments provide better services to the people as they strive to recover?” Escudero said.

A survey by the Social Weather Stations, released in September 2021, found that only 1 in 5 Filipinos, or 21%, do not consider themselves poor; 34% feel they are borderline poor; and 45% or 11.4 million families feel they are impoverished. Of those who rated themselves poor, 6.9% or 1.7 million households were “newly poor,” meaning they did not consider themselves poor at least a year ago. PR

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