THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr., approved the institutionalization of existing programs aimed at alleviating poverty in the country.
NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said on Thursday the NEDA Board had given the go signal for the social protection floor, which was endorsed by the Cabinet’s social development committee.
“Social protection floor refers to nationally defined sets of basic social security guarantees that aim to prevent or alleviate poverty, vulnerability, and social exclusion,” he said at a virtual briefing on People’s Television Network (PTV).
“These guarantees provide protection to individuals and families in times of need. The guarantees should ensure that, at a minimum, everyone in need has access to essential healthcare and basic social protection,” he added.
The floor will provide basic guarantees that cover the entire life cycle — health, including maternity care; children; active age; and older persons.
Mr. Balisacan said the protection floor institutionalizes existing programs that have been “proven to work.”
“We don’t have to restart all over again when there is a need to provide support to vulnerable groups. We are a country that are exposed to a lot of risks, (such as) climate change, and we want to make sure that when these vulnerable members of society are exposed to these risks, they do not fall to poverty because of those exposures so we can sustain the progress we are making in poverty reduction,” he said.
Among the recommendations are the full implementation of universal healthcare and feeding programs, and improvements to the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).
The government is feeding 570,000 children for 120 days a year, according to the NEDA.
“Under the social protection floor, we aim to increase the number of feeding days to 209 in the medium term and to 365 days at the end of this administration’s term,” Mr. Balisacan said.
The government will also undertake efforts to address teenage pregnancy and support children in need of special protection.
Mr. Balisacan said the government would support Filipinos “who are unable to earn sufficient income, including those who are part of the informal economy.”
This includes unemployment insurance, social insurance coverage for temporary workers, worker compensation benefits, and provisions for emergency employment.
The government will ensure that senior citizens will receive discounts and can avail themselves of learning opportunities and get health services.
“Additionally, under social pension, our goal is to fully implement Section 5 of the Expanded Senior Citizens Act, which provides pension coverage to all indigent senior citizens,” Mr. Balisacan said.
Latest data from the statistics authority showed that the poverty incidence rate rose to 18.1% in 2021 from 16.7% in 2018.
Under the Philippine Development Plan, the government aims to bring down the poverty incidence to 16-16.4% this year and to 12.9-13.2% in 2025, 10-10.3% in 2027, and 8.8-9% in 2028.
Meanwhile, Mr. Balisacan said the government is on track to hit its 6-7% growth target this year.
“Remember, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recent World Economic Outlook upgraded its outlook for the Philippines from 5% to 6%. That’s a one-percentage-point increase, one of the very few countries with that kind of upgrade. We are quite optimistic despite these headwinds,” the NEDA secretary said.
Last year, the economy expanded by 7.6%, surpassing the government’s 6.5-7.5% target.
However, Mr. Balisacan warned of the negative impact of the looming El Niño weather phenomenon.
“In the past experiences of El Niño, that will come with lower production particularly for basic agricultural produce. What we want to ensure is that we mitigate the negative effects of El Niño. We can start planning and putting the necessary adjustments to reduce the negative effects while at the same time making arrangements for necessary support for those most exposed, particularly the vulnerable groups.”
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical & Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) earlier this week said the likelihood of an El Niño event has risen to 80% in June, July, August and September, and 87% in November, December and January.
Pagasa said El Niño increases the likelihood of below-normal rainfall conditions in some parts of the country.
Past El Niño events have even triggered drought conditions in the Philippines and other parts of Asia. — L.M.J.C.Jocson