SWS survey: Fewer Filipinos consider themselves poor

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 21) — A June 2017 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found that since the first quarter of 2017, less Filipinos believe they are poor.

The survey, conducted on June 23 to 26, showed that 10.1 million Filipinos consider themselves poor, which is down by nearly 1.5 million from March 2017.

The respondents were 1,200 heads of families.

The 44 percent self-rated poverty rate broke two successive quarters of increases, with the rate at 44 percent in December 2016 and 50 percent in March 2017, the highest under the Duterte administration.

SWS attributed the six-point decrease nationwide to easing poverty in Luzon and Metro Manila, which cushioned slight increases in Visayas and Mindanao.

Self-rated poverty declined by 16 percentage points in Luzon to 34 percent and slipped eight percentage points in Metro Manila to 28 percent. Meanwhile, it rose by seven percentage points in Visayas to 64 percent and climbed four percentage points in Mindanao to 57 percent.

The survey also reported that around 7.3 million families were "food-poor," down by 800,000 from March 2017.

"Prior to this, Self-Rated Food-Poverty had been either steady or increasing since April 2016," SWS said.

SWS said the three-percentage-point fall in the self-rated food poverty rate from March 2017 was due to declines of 15 percentage points in Luzon to 27 percent and five percentage points in Metro Manila to 16 percent.

However, the rate went up 11 percentage points in Visayas to 44 percent and six percentage points in Mindanao to 41 percent.

Those surveyed set ₱10,000 as the monthly budget for them not to be considered poor. The poll revealed that the families still lack ₱5,000 to meet that target.

For self-rated food poverty, the budget was ₱6,000 a month. The families said they are short of that amount by ₱2,500.

"These values are higher in the June 2017 survey compared to their March 2017 counterparts, meaning families are in need of more money and lack more money to escape food poverty," SWS said in its report.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Malacañang is "pleased" with the survey results.

"The Duterte administration's overarching goal is to bring comfortable life for all," he said. "Much has been accomplished in one year as people have started to feel some improvement. However, we have to do more, and with the support of business, civil society and other vital stakeholders, we can achieve our target to bring down poverty to 14% at the end of the President's term."

Improving living standards

The Philippine Development Plan for the Duterte administration — which the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved in February 2017 — aims to reduce the overall poverty rate from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022, which is equivalent to lifting six million people out of poverty.

NEDA Director-General Ernesto Pernia told CNN Philippines' The Source on July 20 that the Duterte administration hopes to raise average living standards, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, by the time it leaves office in 2022.

Read: NEDA chief: Regional development needed for shift to federalism

GDP per capita is computed by dividing the country's GDP, which is the value of all goods and services produced within the country in a year, by the total population.

"We foresee the Philippines as high-middle-income country," he said. "Now, we are a low-middle-income country with a GDP per capita of $3,550 (around ₱180,663) and we would be reaching perhaps $5,000 (₱254,455) by 2022."

Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launched its Kilos SAMBAYANAN program on July 18, which aims to collaborate anti-poverty efforts of the DSWD and the Human Development and Poverty Reduction (HDPR) Cluster.

The HDPR is comprised of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council,  NEDA, the Department of Agrarian Reform, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Department of Education, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor and Employment, the Department of Budget and Management, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the Commission on Higher Education and the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC).

"Sa bahagi ng gobyerno, kailangang paghusayin namin ang paglilingkod sa sambayanan at ang aktibidad na ito ngayong araw ay isa sa mga hakbang na nakita natin na maaaring gawin," Taguiwalo said in a July 18 statement. "Kailangan ilapit po talaga sa inyo ang gobyerno at palawakin pa ang impormasyon tungkol sa mga serbisyo at programa ng pamahalaan."

[Translation: On the part of the government, we need to improve how we serve the people and this activity is one of the steps that we saw that we could do. We really need to bring the government closer to you and to further spread information on the government's programs and services.]

The NAPC identified 10 basic needs of Filipinos: food, land reform, water, shelter, work and national industrialization, healthcare, education, social protection, healthy environment, peace, and people's participation.