Asked about the State of the Nation Address to happen this afternoon, DLSU President and Chancellor Br. Ricky Laguda hopes that President Aquino identify not only the areas for which the government has met its targets based on their plan last year, but also address areas for improvement that will help the country in terms of poverty alleviation, economic progress and inclusive growth.
Economic progress may perhaps be a definite starting point, and a high note for President Aquino. Poverty alleviation may upon its reporting be less acclaimed.
One of the centerpieces for the President’s SONA is expected to be economic growth and development, given the Philippines’ fastest growth rate among East Asian and ASEAN players. With the administration’s first quarter posting of a 7.8 percent growth in Gross Domestic Product, investment grade ratings from Fitch Ratings, S&P and the JCRA and a heady boost five notches up the ladder of global competitiveness, there is much that the President might say which would point to a sterling performance by the government’s economic policy teams.
At the same time, it is during this period of growth that the country finds itself with the most number of recorded unemployed and underemployed individuals in its entire history, with 4.6 million unemployed and 7.3 million underemployed according to NSO data.
In addition to this, it may help paint a clearer picture considering that between 2012 and 2013, laborers from the country’s neglected agricultural and manufacturing sectors found themselves without work, with 822,000 farmers, fisherfolk, workers and unskilled laborers being classified as unemployed according to IBON statistics. IBON’s data further goes on to show and present that the share of agriculture and manufacturing in total employment has continued to fall since 2010, decreasing by 1.3 percent and 0.2 percent respectively.
In terms of poverty alleviation, the accomplishments brought on by the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P) are extolled as a solution to empowering the country’s reported 26.8 million poor Filipinos, with the target of 4.6 million beneficiaries by the end of Aquino’s term in 2016.
Coincident with rising population growth, the NSCB’s reported 27.9 percent poverty incidence rate for 2012 remains virtually unchanged in comparison to 2009’s reported 28.6 percent, even suggesting an increase of 4 million of those labeled in the statistics as poor.
The CCT program has by Sec. Dinky Soliman’s most recent statement served 3.014 million poor families, a little short and very much on track with the annual target of approximately 3.106 million.
But more than the CCT, the administration’s dole-out-centric poverty alleviation framework seems unable to adequately respond to the clamor from the urban poor to address issues in the just relocation of informal settlers, for whom there is an established lack of hazard-free relocation sites. The National Housing Authority is caught in a difficult position to provide homes for over 104,000 informal settlers before 2016, given the admitted shortage of sites and the refusal of the new residents to move into the government-assigned locations due to the distance of said sites from places of school and work.
Despite an externally-perceived boom and optimism from the business sector and foreign investment circles, inclusive growth – that is the trickling of economic growth and development to the lower echelons and grassroots of society – remains the challenge which even a proposed Magna Carta for the Poor might not address.
DLSU’s own president furthers that we as a nation also have a duty to participate, and be involved in how we can contribute as citizens, a responsibility shared not just by the President and government he represents, in making our country a place where each one of us can experience growth in all aspects of life (economic, cultural, moral, political, and spiritual). This we hope the President considers as he and the administration plod on after the SONA and after the midterm, with an emphasis on building capacities, shifting industry priorities and allowing the least of our brethren even a little slice of the economic benefit pie over the longer run.