Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Vol. VII, No. 11      April 22- 28, 2007      Quezon City, Philippines











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Undeniable Truth

The Arroyo government may dispute surveys and studies indicating that problems of hunger and poverty exist in the country despite reported Gross Domestic Product growth rates.  But no one can deny the pangs of hunger. 


Last March 2007, a survey on hunger conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) revealed that 19 percent of Filipino families or 3.4 million households experienced hunger at least once during the previous three months. The Arroyo administration responded by questioning the accuracy of the survey.  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo retorted that even she misses a meal whenever she is busy.

But the SWS survey was followed by a poverty survey released by the World Bank on April 16.  The WB report revealed that at least 14.8 million Filipinos or 19 percent of the Filipino population in 2000 live on less than $1 a day, trapped in extreme poverty.  Added to this, 43 million Filipinos live on $2 a day, a less extreme international measure of poverty.  Malnutrition under age 5 averaged about 28 percent.

Reacting to the report, National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Domingo Panganiban said the World Bank data was “misleading” and “outdated.”  He said that since poverty estimates in the Philippines are expected to fall below 10 percent in 2006 and to 8.4 percent in 2007, the figures quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer in its April 17 story may be that of 1990 figures.  Panganiban further said that since the World Bank uses the Purchasing Power Party dollar as their value, the threshold for the Philippines may be lower at less than P20 ($0.418 at an exchange rate of $1=P47.80).

The Arroyo government may dispute surveys and studies indicating that problems of hunger and poverty exist in the country despite reported Gross Domestic Product growth rates.  But one thing is clear: The results of both the SWS survey on hunger and the WB data on poverty were consistent. 

The Arroyo government is disputing the WB data because it shows that 57.8 million Filipinos or 66.4 percent of the estimated 87,000,000 population are poor.          

Worse, the SWS survey showed that more Filipinos experienced hunger, 3.4 million households or 20.4 million people at an average of six members per household, than those reported as extremely poor by the World Bank in 2000.  Even the 43 million Filipinos who live on $2 a day surely experience hunger. 

The Arroyo government is wont to play with statistics to make it appear that the situation in the country is better off than it really is. Two years ago, it changed the definition of “unemployed,” taking away those who are not looking for work and are not sick or waiting for the results of job applications, to lower the unemployment rate.  The new definition thus reduced the unemployment rate by two to three percent and the number of unemployed to about 1 to 1.5 million people. A closer look at the number of employed, however, reveals an increasing number of unpaid family labour and self-employed. The average unemployment rate of 11.6 percent and underemployment rate of 18.5 percent since 2000 is the worst six-year period in the country’s history.  The unemployed and underemployed numbered 11.6 million Filipinos or a third of the labour force in 2006.  No wonder a lot of Filipinos are poor and are experiencing hunger.   

The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) set a very low poverty threshold of P13, 823 per year in 2000 to come up with a very low poverty rate of 39.4 percent of the population.  It also set a very low subsistence threshold of P9,183. By NSCB’s computations a person should live below P1,151 each month or P38.39 a day before being classified as poor. Perhaps government officials especially the president and her cabinet secretaries should try to live on this amount.  They could donate the rest of their salaries and perks to the fight against poverty. 

The Arroyo government’s economists and spin doctors can play with statistics and blame the opposition and the Left for painting a dismal picture of the country.  But to the ordinary Filipino, the pangs of hunger and their worsening situation of destitution are real.  No amount of spin can change that. Bulatlat




© 2007 Bulatlat  Alipato Publications

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