Plans and promises: Presidential bets on poverty alleviation

MANILA, Philippines – In March this year, the National Economic and Development Authority reported that poverty incidence in the Philippines decreased to 26.3% in the first semester of 2015 – the lowest since 2006.

The government agency, however, admitted that poverty rate decline "could have been faster," if not for "major shocks" that happened in recent years, such as Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), the Bohol earthquake, and the Zamboanga siege.

Latest figures from the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) also show that 1.5 million families have been lifted from poverty since 2010, although 67,968 of those families are still at risk of reverting to poverty in the event of an economic shock or a disaster.

According to NEDA, the poverty rate decline "sends a strong signal" that poverty-reduction programs are working, including the Aquino administration's flagship poverty-alleviation program, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

A recent Social Weather Stations survey shows 80% of Filipino voters are likely to vote for candidates who will continue the 4Ps. No wonder, then, that all 5 presidential candidates have said they would continue the program.

But what will the 4Ps be like under their administration?

Vice President Jejomar Binay, who gives the Arroyo administration the credit for starting the program, has vowed to expand the 4Ps to include marginalized sectors and senior citizens aged 60-64. He wants to extend technical-vocational training for beneficiaries.

He also plans to increase the program's budget, and give it a regular and automatic allocation. Binay says his administration will "clean up" the program to keep it from being used for politicking, and will ensure the timely release of cash grants to beneficiaries.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte says he will increase the beneficiaries' funds for food.

He wants to continue implementing the 4P, but with a livelihood component that will give loans to poor families so they can put up their own small- and medium-scale enterprises.

Like Duterte, Senator Grace Poe wants to include in the 4Ps a livelihood component, but her aim is to prepare beneficiaries for independence once they graduate from the program.

She also wants to expand and strengthen the program to include more fisherfolk families, indigent seniors, and near-poor families vulnerable to disasters.

She is pushing for an "unconditional" cash transfer program for calamity victims – similar to the one implemented by the DSWD in 2013, after Yolanda hit parts of the country. 

As for indigent solo parents, Poe wants to include them in a modified conditional cash transfer to help lessen their financial burden.

Poe, like Binay, also vows to increase the budget for the 4Ps.

Administration bet and former Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II supports the call to institutionalize the 4Ps through a law.

Like Poe, he wants the program to include near-poor families to keep them from reverting to poverty.

He is also pushing for recalibrating the program so that beneficiaries can transition to decent jobs and livelihood opportunities.

Roxas says there is a need to extend investment to these families in terms of health and post-secondary education.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, meanwhile, believes the 4Ps should be jointly implemented with local government units.

She also wants to go beyond the conditions of the program to include a grant-for-work component. – Rappler.com

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.

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