BRUNEI DARUSSALAM  – No change in poverty incidence in the Philippines? President Benigno S. Aquino III does not believe so.


The President said that while there were two regions that had a dramatic increase in poverty levels, one of which is the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), there had been a reduction in the poverty levels in other areas.


“Sorry, I just have to emphasize: The whole country is not composed of two regions. There are only two regions that had dramatic increases in poverty levels,” Aquino said.


The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), in its poverty incidence report for the first semester of 2012, revealed that poverty incidence in the country, estimated at 27.9 percent, has no statistical difference with the 2006 and 2009 report of the same period.


The 2006 poverty incidence was at 28/8 percent while the 2009 poverty incidence was at 28.6 percent in the first semester.


The ARMM remains the poorest region in the country with 46.9 percent poverty level, followed by SOCCSKSARGEN (Region XII) at 37.5 percent.


President Aquino however said that knowing that the ARMM is currently undergoing reforms as compared to the last time that a poverty incidence survey was conducted under the past administration, he said he doubts that poverty incidence in the ARMM has increased.

“Are you comparing apples to apples?... May konti akong duda [I have some doubts],” he said.

Aquino noted that his administration had to cleanse the voters’ list in the ARMM because the report on its population had been doubtful. He also said the government has been conducting interventions to decrease poverty incidence, such as the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program.


He said improvements from these interventions will not happen overnight but what is important is that steps had already been taken.


The President also explained why galunggong is now more expensive compared to bangus, saying bangus is cultured, there are interventions that can be put in place, as compared to galunggong, which is harvested.


“You can look at all the regions, even in that fishery sector, we are aware that there is global climate change, overfishing, and wrong practices that are being addressed,” he said.


But Rep. Mitos Magsaysay said President Aquino should try to spend some time to experience the life of regular folk before doubting the veracity of the NSCB poverty report Magsaysay made the suggestion after reports Socio economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan was bumped off from the delegation that went with President Aquino to the 22nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Bandar Seri Begawan.


Rep. JV Ejercito-Estrada, who is running for senator under the UNA coalition, agreed with Magsaysay and said the NSCB report should serve as an eye-opener to the Aquino administration.

“The NSCB report should prod the government to buckle down to work. The Aquino administration can start by investing heavily in quality education and make it accessible to all,” Ejercito-Estrada said.


“The government should also work with various economic sectors to address job mismatches and focus on the development of the manufacturing sector to increase jobs,” he added.
Food Security.


As this developed, United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidate Jack Enrile expressed grave concern over the findings of the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations that almost 8 million families are food-poor.


“While the latest survey results show a decline in hunger incidence from 44 percent, or 8.9 million households, to 39 percent or 7.9 million families, the situation is unacceptable, any way you look at it,” Enrile said.


“We must intensify efforts to achieve food security, first by giving agriculture the priority it deserves and making enough food available to all at affordable prices,” Enrile said.


Enrile said that with hunger affecting a third of the population, government, the private sector and civil society groups should find ways to remedy the situation.


“Government cannot do it alone. We need to also harness the efforts of the private sector and civil society to make food security a reality,” Enrile emphasized.


Enrile is the author of House Bill 4626, or the Food for Filipinos First, seeking to determine the minimum food requirements of Filipino families in every province so as to come up with a comprehensive food self-sufficiency program. -- Madel Sabater Namit with a report from Hannah L. Torregoza/Manila Bulletin