The number of poor Filipinos fell substantially between 2015 and 2018, placing the government closer to achieving its goal of lifting 1 million people out of poverty each year, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said Thursday.
Twenty-one out of 100 Filipinos were living in poverty in the first six months of 2018, compared with almost 28 in 100 in the same period in 2015. The decline has been linked to the nation’s thriving economic growth, which has seen an increase in new jobs and an expansion of government cash grants.
"Over three years, we can see that poverty decreased substantially, down by 6.6 percentage points,” Adoracion Navarro, undersecretary at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), stated on behalf of the PSA.
"Growth in the construction and manufacturing sectors created more employment opportunities. I’d also like to highlight the increase in income of Filipino households, as well as employment shifts to the industry and service sectors from agriculture,” she added.
The average income of the bottom 30% of Filipino households increased by 29% between 2015 and 2018, compared to 20% between 2012 and 2015. Similarly, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty improved from just under 10% of the population in 2015 to 6% in 2018.
21 out of 100 Filipinos belonged in poor families in the first half of 2018. #PHPovertyStats— @PSAgovph (@PSAgovph) April 10, 2019
Navarro claimed the government’s increase in cash handouts over the past three years has helped reduce poverty rates.
The Philippines’ conditional cash transfer program now includes a further P600 ($11 USD) in monthly rice subsidy grants while the nation’s social security system increased monthly payments by P1000 ($19 USD). The number of senior citizens eligible for cash handouts also widened, accommodating three million in 2018 from 930,000 in 2015.
"We note that the top contributor to the strong income growth for our nation's poorest was an increase in wages and salaries,” she stated. “A second and third were increased domestic cash receipts and support and entrepreneurial activities.”
The Philippines hopes to reach a 14% poverty rate by 2022. To achieve the 14% target, over one million people need to be lifted from poverty every year. According to President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, the Philippines is firmly on track to meet the goal.
"We will not rest but rather continue to work hard to achieve our target of decreasing poverty to 14%,” he stated. “We will fulfill the President’s vision of providing a comfortable life for each and every Filipino.”
Read More: 1.1B People Have Risen From Extreme Poverty Since 1990, World Bank Says
Despite confidence from Panelo and the PSA, human rights groups have continuously claimed poverty will remain while Duterte's deadly crackdown on drugs continues.
The Philippine Human Rights Information Center (PhilRights) reports that the drug war uses unnecessary force on poor Filipinos suspected of being drug users and dealers. Despite widespread criticism over human rights abuses, over five thousand alleged drug dealers have died during police raids since Duterte took office in 2016. The rights group claims unidentified gunmen have murdered tens of thousands more.
PhilRights believes the deaths push victims’ families deeper into poverty.
“These families have a hand-to-mouth existence. It becomes much worse when their primary breadwinner is killed,” PhilRights Executive Director Nymia Simbulan stated, according to Rappler. “The women take over the responsibilities left by their husbands killed in the drug war. They carry the burden of working and being a single parent.”
The Duterte administration has long dismissed criticism from local and international human rights organizations.