The first six months of last year saw 3.9 million more Filipinos pushed into poverty, with economic officials laying the blame squarely on pandemic-related lockdown measures, job losses, cuts in household consumption, and forced business closures.
Poverty in the country grew to 23.7%, against 21.1% in the same six-month period in 2018, Channel News Asia reports.
The number of Filipinos in poverty has now risen to over 26 million, just under 25% of the population.
The Philippines remains one of the worst COVID-19-hit nations throughout Asia.
The country has experienced two major waves of confirmed infections, with cases peaking in April 2021 and again five months later in September. Of the 2.8 million confirmed cases in the country since the pandemic began, 2.7 million people have recovered, while over 51,000 people have died.
Early last week, the Philippines Government announced an array of restrictions would return, spurred by a two-month high in daily cases. School students in Manilla and across three provinces will be subjected to in-person education, while churches, restaurants, and parks will operate at a reduced capacity.
Around 50% of the population is currently fully vaccinated.
Despite the increasing number of poor Filipinos, the government says it is still on track to meet its poverty reduction targets.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua said the nation's poverty incidence rate goal for 2022 — the proportion of Filipinos whose per capita income is insufficient to meet basic food and non-food needs — will remain at 15.5% to 17.5%.
By 2040, the government hopes to achieve zero poverty nationwide.
"So far, we are sticking to this target," Chua said, according to the Manila Times. “There are 3.9 million more poor, so we have to work hard to at least bring them out of poverty. We end this year on track to an early recovery. Our growth prospects are encouraging. As we collectively strive toward our 2040 vision, the poor will be at the centre of our recovery and development strategy.
“No one will be left behind," Chua promised.