MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Poverty incidence among Filipino families fell only slightly in 2012 from 2006 despite the Philippines' high economic growth.
President Benigno Aquino III reiterated this highlights the need to make growth inclusive so gains would trickle down to the poor.
In a press conference on Monday, December 9, National Statistical Coordination Board Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert announced the percentage of poor families in the country stood at 19.7% in 2012, compared to the 2009 and 2006 figures of 20.5% and 21%, respectively.
Albert said the decline in poverty incidence was "not statistically significant."
In terms of actual number, however, poor Filipino families rose to 4.2 million in 2012 from 3.8 million in 2006, "on account of the country's growing population," noted Albert.
The government considers a family poor if its monthly earnings are less than the poverty threshold.
According to NSCB's report, the poverty threshold for 2012 was P5,513 per month. This was the amount required for a family to meet basic food needs.
If non-food needs such as clothing, housing, transportation, health and education expenses were taken into account, the threshold was P7,890.
Why many Pinoys are poor
On the sidelines of the NSCB briefing, former National Economic and Develoment Authority (NEDA) director general Solita Monsod said the country's growth was not sufficient to reduce poverty because Filipinos' incomes have been low.
Monsod said economic growth would not make a significant dent on poverty if it doesn't translate into better incomes.
"It's a difficult problem but it is quite clear that the problem is inequality… We grew so fast, but the income inequality has increased," Monsod said.
Other reasons were the lack of quality jobs, inflation and the series of natural disasters that hit the country in the past years.
NSB said disasters that struck between 2009 and 2012 cost the economy P96.25 billion.
Making growth inclusive
Key to reducing poverty is inclusive growth or one that creates more, quality and sustainable jobs, said Aquino.
"When we say inclusive growth, the primary stimulus has always been the poverty level. The economy is growing, but this is not being felt by everyone, especially the bottom quintile of our population," the President said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The slight decline in poverty incidence last year was nevertheless "an indication of accomplishment."
"[It's] a work in progress," said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan.
"Poverty is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive, multi-pronged, multi-sectoral solution involving many stakeholders. It is a daunting challenge, to say the least, but this is one we are determined to meet head on," he added.
Aquino said his administration would continue to work on alleviating poverty through various government programs.
"That’s why you have all of these funding for TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), CHED (Commission on Higher Education) and DepEd (Department of Education) for that matter. That’s why you have CCT (conditional cash transfer) now to be expanded to high school student. All and everything that we do is aimed at bringing our people beyond to poverty threshold," he explained.
NSCB data showed that income of poor families were 26.2% shy of the poverty threshold in 2012. Poor families needed an additional monthly income of P2,067 to stay out of poverty.
NSCB said the government needed P124 billion to transfer this income to poor families. The government, however, only allotted P39.4 billion for its CCT program in 2012.
Poorest, least poor regions
Based on NSCB data, the poorest regions in the Philippines in 2012 were:
The least poor regions were: