MANILA 2 October 2020 – Citing recent studies on poverty, hunger alleviation, and human capital, House Deputy Speaker and Antique Representative Loren Legarda called for more equalization of the budgets across departments in order to improve the welfare and capability of the Filipino people to cope with the challenges due to the pandemic and climate crisis.
Legarda said that a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) released in August 2020 reported that with just a 10% decline in incomes, up to 5.5 million Filipinos would be pushed into poverty, adding that the pandemic is causing income dislocations larger than that.
The PIDS report emphasized however that the social amelioration program and the small business wage subsidy would reduce this number to 1.5 million, thereby saving four million Filipinos from poverty. “The proposed 2021 budget must therefore substantially increase the provisions for programs like these in the budgets of the DSWD, DA, DOLE, DTI, and other concerned agencies, to support our Filipino families and prevent them from falling below the poverty line,” Legarda said.
Legarda also cited the World Bank’s Human Capital Index 2020 Update, which gave the Philippines a 0.52 rating and made the dramatic conclusion that “children born in the country today will fail to achieve almost half their potential.” She also mentioned the Social Weather Stations also reported that 30.7% of respondents in a nationwide survey reported experiencing hunger once in the last three months.
“These reports show us that we need to stack the odds in favor of survival and human development. If we aim to use the Build, Build, Build program to lift people out of poverty and reduce the incidence of hunger, the connections need to be made clear and certain. Otherwise, we are not putting our money where our mouths are,” Legarda insisted.
Rather than make line item realignments, Legarda suggested taking a broader and more conservative look that assumes the worst and hopes for the best.
“The discrepancies are in the billions, with the DOH budget being reduced by P50 billion, while the DPWH gets a fresh P85 billion on top of their previous budget, which was already 25% higher than 2019. I believe though that infrastructure development creates job opportunities and must trickle down to the poorest. No less than an overhaul and a better spread among the agencies to ensure sufficient funding for human capital will work,” she said.
Lastly, Legarda cited the Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) Flagship report, which stated that climate change could push more than 100 million people within developing countries below poverty line by 2030. She therefore called for increasing the budget provisions for climate adaptation projects and programs by government agencies, emphasizing the need to empower local governments and communities in managing climate risks and hazards.
“It is not enough that we plan just to recover from this pandemic. We must acknowledge that even when this pandemic is all over, we still have a climate crisis to deal with. The President himself said that our response to the climate crisis should be just as urgent. Let’s invest in where it truly matters so our development gains won’t be wasted come another typhoon or drought. Let’s strive for a better normal by enabling genuine and lasting resilience for all,” Legarda concluded.