MANILA – The administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is doubling efforts to attain its single-digit poverty rate target by 2028.
In his first State of the Nation Address in 2022, President Marcos vowed to bring down poverty to as low as 9 percent by the end of his term.
Latest data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country's poverty rate already declined to 22.4 percent in the first half of 2023 from 23.7 percent in the same period in 2021.
This is equivalent to 25.24 million Filipinos whose per capita income is not sufficient to meet their basic food and non-food needs, down from 2021's estimate of 26.14 million poor Filipinos.
Across the country, poverty incidence decreased in 15 out of the 17 regions from 2021 to 2023, declining significantly in National Capital Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Soccsksargen, and Caraga.
National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan earlier said the full reopening of the Philippine economy and the lifting of all Covid-19 restrictions helped the economy recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
"Notably, in the first three quarters of 2023, the Philippines demonstrated remarkable resilience amid all challenges, with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate averaging at 5.5 percent, placing us among the best-performing economies in Asia," Balisacan said.
Economic growth was mainly driven by robust domestic demand and broad-based expansion in major sectors.
"In the face of many domestic and international challenges, we have effectively implemented the appropriate strategies to sustain the economy's forward momentum," Balisacan said.
According to Balisacan, real GDP per capita already recovered and exceeded its pre-pandemic level, adding that most sectors even surpassed their pre-pandemic performance.
The government is aiming to achieve a 6 to 7 percent growth in 2023 and accelerate GDP expansion to 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year.
For 2025 to 2028, the government set a 6.5 to 8.0 percent economic growth target.
Balisacan said one of the major growth drivers includes higher infrastructure spending boosted by the construction of its 197 infrastructure flagship projects amounting to PHP8.7 trillion.
These projects aim to address the economy's long-standing infrastructure deficits.
"Such gaps act as binding constraints to business investment and expansion. Again, the goal is to generate more well-paying and secure jobs for Filipino workers. This is crucial in substantially decreasing our country's poverty rate to single-digit levels by 2028 from 18.1 percent in 2021," Balisacan said.
Aside from pushing for reforms to accelerate growth, the government also ramped up efforts to tame inflation.
Headline inflation which reached an all-time high of 8.7 percent in January last year, already fell to a 22-month low of 3.9 percent in December 2023.
"Government interventions, such as the Targeted Cash Transfer Program, fuel subsidy, one-time rice allowance, and the Libreng Sakay Program, helped mitigate the adverse effects of inflation on poor households," Balisacan said.
For this year until 2028, the government expects headline inflation to moderate and settle within the 2.0 to 4.0 percent target.
Despite the deceleration in inflation, the government will continue to implement measures to ensure that prices of commodities are stable, Balisacan said.
One of these measures includes the issuance of Executive Order 50 which extended the Most Favored Nation reduced tariff rates for key agricultural commodities like pork, corn and rice to ensure sufficient food supply for Filipinos, and prevent spikes in prices of these commodities.
“Amid an uptrend in international rice prices and the expected negative impact of the El Niño phenomenon, the Interagency Committee on Inflation and Market Outlook will closely monitor the situation and propose further temporary tariff adjustments if necessary," Balisacan added.
"We will also push for trade facilitation measures to reduce other non-tariff barriers. While our medium-term objective to boost agricultural productivity remains, it is important to augment domestic supply to ease inflationary pressures on consumers, particularly those in low-income households,” he said.
Interventions to reduce poverty
Moving forward, Balisacan said the government will ensure the effective implementation of various initiatives and interventions in the social sector to reduce poverty at both the national and regional levels.
"These include the effective implementation of the new Social Protection Floor that institutionalizes basic social security guarantees, the passage of the Trabaho Para sa Bayan Act and the Pambansang Pabahay para sa Pilipino Program, as well as the establishment of the Walang Gutom 2027 Food Stamp Program," he added.
The NEDA chief said the government will prioritize creating high-quality and high-paying jobs by focusing on attracting job-generating investments from the private sector and scaling up social and physical infrastructure to improve people's employment prospects.
The government is also committed to improving the quality of education in the country.
Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Z. Duterte earlier noted that some key initiatives to enhance functional literacy across all levels of education include the recent revision of the K-10 curriculum, the implementation of the alternative learning system, and further investment in teachers' training.
The Office of the Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation (OPAPA), for its part, is also committed to enhancing the implementation of food programs as part of the government's poverty alleviation program.
Presidential Adviser for Poverty Alleviation Larry Gadon said they will enhance the implementation of food programs for school children in critical areas and collaborate with government agencies to create new and improve existing programs, projects, and activities for vulnerable sectors.
The OPAPA will also work with international businesses to generate sustainable job opportunities in the Philippines; support micro, small, and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs) with grants, affordable loans, and workforce upskilling to prompt job creation and economic development, he said.
In 2023, the OPAPA also initiated poverty reduction programs in collaboration with the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, the Department of Agriculture, and the Philippine National Police.
Aside from these, the government also vowed to ensure sound macroeconomic fundamentals to sustain growth in the medium and long term.
Balisacan said the government will continue to facilitate policy initiatives to create an enabling environment for investments, trade, and innovation.
"Through the recently enacted Public-Private Partnership or PPP Code, we aim to reinforce the country's investment ecosystem and provide private-sector investors with a more stable and predictable policy environment to advance our development efforts. These programs will generate more high-quality jobs, create various opportunities for Filipino workers, and contribute to our goal of significantly reducing poverty in the country," Balisacan said.
"With our priorities in check, we remain committed to achieving our AmBisyon of a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay para sa lahat (ambition of a stable, convenient, and secure life for all), where no one is poor and no Filipino is left behind," he added. (PNA)