Localization is key in anti-poverty strategy – NAPC

MAKATI CITY (MindaNews/26 Sept) – The government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and the subsidized universal health insurance under the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) cannot be the end goal of its poverty strategy, the chair of the National Anti-Poverty Commission told a conference here dubbed “Pathways to High and Inclusive Growth.”

NAPC chair Joel Rocamora cited that in the CCT program dubbed as Pantawid Pampamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), they have already enlisted 2.3 million households out of the targeted 4.7 million by 2016. They also intend to enlist 5.2 million for the subsidized health insurance project.

“This is quite revolutionary,” Rocamora said, adding that such magnitude has never been seen in Philippine history.

But he said the two programs cannot be sustainable.

Rocamora spoke to an audience of more than 200 in the social protection session of the conference hosted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center last Friday.

Conference organizers have pushed for social protection, along with pro-poor employment and good governance with political participation as the levers for high and inclusive growth.

The AIM looks at inclusive growth as “one that sustains competitiveness and a robust economic growth performance, while ensuring that the benefits of growth and wealth creation provide the widest possible benefits to the greater bulk of low income population at the bottom.”

Rocamora cited that beginning January 2012 the NAPC will start pushing for the localization of its anti-poverty strategies.

“You cannot sustain your anti-poverty strategy program without participation of the local government units and the poor sectors,” he said, quoting his discussion with Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman.

Rocamora said they have eyed to prioritize about 600 towns around the country with a “major number” from Mindanao based on the magnitude of their poverty incidence. He was referring to provinces in the Caraga Region and the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao.

He said one of their thrusts is to focus on the “poorest regions in the country.” In copies of his presentations furnished to participants, NAPC intends to focus on the poorest municipalities from the poorest regions and provinces.

They also intend to pursue people’s participation and empowerment, noting that “people’s participation in governance can make poverty reduction work more effective.”

NAPC also plans to rationalize poverty reduction programs.

“We are crafting a poverty reduction strategy that locates poverty reduction within economic development planning, and bridges national and local poverty planning,” the NAPC head said in his presentation.

Rocamora said after the CCT, PhilHealth, and the localization efforts, the government will also provide resources to assist the poor to organize themselves.

He added that they also intend to push for assets reform.

“The Aquino Administration will fast-track the implementation of asset reform programs under existing laws, particularly agrarian reform, ancestral domain, fishery reform and socialized housing,” he added.

On the empowerment of the poor, the NAPC intends to assist in finding “solutions for supply-side problems of CCT and PhilHealth to assist in accelerating asset reform programs.” This includes organizing poor farmers to participate in market value chains.

Education Secretary Bro. Armin Luistro cited in his response to the presentation the problem of poor urban planning and zoning.

He cited a problem of maldistribution in schools, adding that are some schools are clogged but some are empty. He cited the relationship of the income of teachers, the dropout rates and the low participation rate of school age children. But he said it is nothing compared to the problem of access to quality education.

Luistro cited that there must be a way to help the poor without stereotyping or the cost of identifying them as the poor in public.

University of the Philippines Prof. Solita Monsod cited that while the government thinks of a five-year CCT program, it has perpetuated tax incentives for the rich. The P21-billion budget for the CCT, she stressed, is nothing compared to the P90-billion taxes waived as incentives to businessmen.

She also cited that at the present rate, the government’s health insurance benefits more the rich than the poor.

Dr. Abdul Alim, the deputy country representative of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), said the government must not forget to factor in the vulnerability of the poor to disasters and conflicts. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)