MANILA, Philippines – More policies to reduce poverty could have been implemented if officials under the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) met more often during the past administration, said its new chief.
Recently appointed NAPC head Liza Maza told Rappler that the basic weakness of the agency was it never met en banc during the time of former president Benigno Aquino III.
"What they (NAPC officials) told me was that they have crafted many policies and resolutions from their sectoral meetings but none of those were adopted, which could have resolved the problem [of poverty], because they weren't convened to adopt and approve the proposals," Maza said in a mix of English and Filipino.
"Never nag-meet en banc ang NAPC sa panahon ni Aquino. Kasi it should meet en banc kasama ang ahensya ng gobyerno, mga basic sector because it coordinates and it has an oversight function pero ni minsan hindi nameet ni Aquino itong NAPC en banc kaya may basic weakness na 'yun," she said.
(NAPC never met en banc during the time of Aquino. It should meet en banc with different agencies of the government, basic sectors because it coordinates and it has an oversight function. But Aquino never met with the NAPC en banc, so there is a basic weakness there.)
Created through Republic Act 8425, NAPC's role is to oversee the government's anti-poverty program and social reform agenda. It should also bridge the concerns of the local government units and the marginalized sectors in crafting policies and recommendations for poverty alleviation. (READ: NAPC chief to beneficiaries: Defend BUB, Aquino admin reforms)
Maza's goal: Models for empowering sectors
The former representative of the party-list group Gabriela said that her work as the agency's leader would focus on eradicating poverty rather than simply alleviating it, which has been the direction of anti-poverty programs "since time immemorial."
To achieve this, she said, combating poverty should be a concern of the whole government and not just NAPC and the agencies linked to it.
"Kailangan talaga 'yung macroeconomic policies should be geared towards developing our real economy – 'yung ating agriculture saka 'yung ating manufacturing sector. Kasi kung 'di ganun talagang alleviation lang 'yan," she said.
(Our macroeconomic policies should be geared towards developing our real economy – our agriculture and manufacturing sectors. Because otherwise, it will just be all about alleviation.)
Maza said she wants to develop models for anti-poverty programs. For instance, she said coconut farmers could be taught to make coco sugar instead of just harvesting their produce. In this way, agriculture and manufacturing are integrated to empower farmers who are among the country's poorest.
"This is more far-reaching than offering 4Ps," she said, referring to Aquino's main anti-poverty scheme – the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
Maza's model is aligned with Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo's proposal to include an economic component in the 4Ps.
Both Maza and Taguiwalo, who belong to the progressive Makabayan bloc, want to review and redesign the existing 4Ps, which benefits up to 4 million poor households.
Aside from creating long-term models to solve poverty, Maza vowed to improve consultations with people on the ground, especially sectoral groups.
She said this would be easy for her given her experiences with Gabriela and her recent stint as head of the Working for Empowerment and Good Governance Institute (WeGovern).
'Just' leader from the left
NAPC officials led by undersecretaries Florencia Dorotan and Patrocinio Jude Esguerra III recently urged Maza not to join the Left in attacking the agency.
This was their response to a Manila Today report that bared alleged corruption in NAPC.
Maza, for her part, said she would be fair.
"We are still in the transition process and I am right now studying the work of the commission. I am prepared to listen to all sides in order to form a just and principled opinion on issues brought to NAPC," she told Rappler in a text message. – Rappler.com