Despite poverty incidence dropping to a three-year low, the government needs to continue providing Filipinos with more well-paying jobs to increase the pace of poverty reduction in the country, according to Senator Win Gatchalian.
Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, made the statement a day after the World Bank said the Philippines is on track in reducing poverty as more families benefit from faster economic growth.
The latest Statistics Authority (PSA) report also showed that the number of Filipinos living below the poverty line fell by 6.6 percentage points to 21 percent in the first half of 2015 from 27.6 percent in the first half of 2015.
The lawmaker said the robust economic growth in the Philippines over the past years and the effectiveness of the government social programs, such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and Condition Cash Transfer Program had been instrumental in bringing reducing the country’s poverty rate.
However, Gatchalian noted that poverty reduction in the Philippines has been slow compared to its Southeast Asian peers, like Vietnam. Citing his internal comparative study, the lawmaker pointed out that for the last 12 years, the government only managed to reduce poverty rate in the country 5.6 percent compared to Vietnam’s poverty reduction rate of 9.7 percent during the same period.
“Yes we are making progress in terms of reducing the poverty rate in the country, but we aren’t progressing fast enough compared to some of our peers in the ASEAN region. That’s why we need to implement programs and reforms that are directly intended to the marginalized sectors,” Gatchalian said.
To help accelerate the poverty reduction in the country, the lawmaker stresses the need to improve productivity in all sectors, particularly in agriculture. Gatchalian said that much of the poorest households remain heavily dependent on agriculture as their main source of income.
It is for this reason that Gatchalian has been pushing for the passage of Senate Bill No. 2171 (SBN 2171) or the Philippine Warehouse Receipts Act of 2019, which the senator said will help boost the country’s agricultural productivity and food security, while improving farmers’ margins in the long run.
SBN 2171 aims to revitalize and upgrade the warehouse receipt system and improve agricultural trade by allowing farmers to delay the sale of their produce until after harvest to a time when prices are generally more favourable.
At present, Gatchalian said farmers have no option but to sell their goods immediately before harvest, even at a loss due to the dearth of an effective warehouse receipts system in the country, preventing them to maximize their margins. He further explained that the increased storage of agricultural commodities after the harvest season may in turn contribute to stabilizing commodity price volatility.
Through SBN 2171, poor farmers and other agricultural workers may also obtain credit by using the issued warehouse receipts for their stored goods. What they need to do is deposit their goods and products in a warehouse, after which they will be issued with a warehouse receipt, a document which they may easily trade, barter, sell, or use as collateral to get the necessary credit.
Gatchalian also highlighted the importance of legislative reforms to help improve the business climate and attract more investments in the country, as well as, continuous investment in people and skills development to reduce the widening income gap in the country.
He renewed his call for the removal of anti-competitive restrictions on foreign investments, pointing to key amendatory measures he has filed to erase these restrictions from key economic laws including the Public Service Act and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act.
“The government must now take advantage of the country’s solid economic fundamentals in enhancing and even creating more targeted government social programs if we want to reduce poverty rate at a much fast pace,” he added.