MANILA, Philippines – Fewer Filipino families consider themselves “mahirap” or poor, according to the latest survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
The First Quarter 2009 Social Weather Survey, fielded over Feb. 20 to 23, showed 47 percent of Filipino families (about 8.7 million) consider themselves as poor, 27 percent put themselves on the “Borderline” and 26 percent consider themselves as “Hindi Mahirap” or not poor.
SWS said Self-Rated Poverty has been on a generally downward trend since mid-2008, declining from 59 percent in June 2008, 52 percent in September, 52 percent in December to 47 percent in February 2009.
The non-commissioned survey also found that 36 percent of Filipino families (estimated 6.7 million) consider themselves as “Food-Poor,” 34 percent put themselves on the “Food-Borderline” and 30 percent consider themselves as “Not Food-Poor.”
SWS said Self-Rated Food Poverty has been volatile but also declining since it went from 49 percent in June 2008 to 38 percent in September, 42 percent in December to 36 percent in February 2009.
SWS said poverty rates declined sharply in Mindanao, from 59 percent in December 2008 to 45 percent in February 2009.
It declined slightly in Metro Manila, from 53 percent to 49 percent and in balance Luzon, from 44 percent to 42 percent.
It stayed at 60 percent in the Visayas over the past two quarters, barely changing from 59 percent in September.
SWS said Self-Rated Poverty in urban areas went down from 47 percent to 43 percent, while it declined slightly in rural areas, from 56 percent to 53 percent.
The one-quarter decline in Self-Rated Food Poverty is also sharpest in Mindanao, the SWS said.
It dropped by 15 points, from 51 percent in December to 36 percent in February.
It declined slightly in the Visayas, from 50 percent to 45 percent, in balance Luzon, from 35 percent to 31 percent and in Metro Manila, from 42 percent to 39 percent.
The latest survey also found that the poverty threshold – or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor in general – slightly rose in Luzon and the Visayas.
“The Self-Rated Poverty Threshold has been sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation,” the SWS said.
“This indicates that poor families have been lowering their living standards, i.e., belt-tightening.”
As of February 2009, the median poverty threshold for poor households in Metro Manila stayed at P10,000, even though it had already reached as high as P15,000 several times in the past.
For those in Mindanao, the median poverty threshold stayed at P5,000, although it had already been at P10,000 before.
The median poverty thresholds of poor households rose slightly to P8,000 in balance Luzon and to P7,500 in the Visayas, but had also already reached P10,000 before for both areas.
The median food-poverty thresholds for poor households dwindled to P4,800 in Metro Manila, and to P3,000 in balance Luzon.
It remained at P4,000 in balance Luzon and at P3,000 in Mindanao. SWS said these levels had already been reached several years ago.
In Metro Manila in particular, SWS said the median poverty threshold is still P10,000 as in 2000, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen there by about 55 percent since.
“The NCR median poverty threshold of P10,000 per month for February 2009 is equivalent to only P6,456 in base year 2000 purchasing power, after deflation by the CPI,” the SWS said.
“The deflated poverty threshold for NCR of below P7,000 per month is a throwback to living standards of over twenty years ago.”
In four SWS surveys in 2000, the base year of the CPI, the median SWS poverty threshold for NCR was already P10,000 per month, equivalent to P15,490 per month at the February 2009 cost of living, given the CPI of 154.9.
“The difference of P15,490 – P 10,000 = P5,490 between the thresholds of 2000 and February 2009 measures the extent of belt-tightening that took place,” it said.
On the other hand, median food poverty threshold of P4,800 in Metro Manila is equivalent to only P3,194 in base year 2000 purchasing power for food.
The median food poverty threshold in December 2000 was P6,000 for Metro Manila. It is equivalent to P9,018 per month at the February 2009 cost of food, given the latest CPI of 150.1 for food items.
“The difference of P9,018 – P4,800 = P4,218 between the food thresholds of 2000 and February 2009 is the extent of belt-tightening made by food-poor Metro Manila households,” the SWS said.
The SWS survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults in Metro Manila, the balance of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Sampling error margins of plus or minus three percent for national percentages and plus or minus six percent for area percentages were applied.
‘Thanks to Malacañang’
At Malacañang, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde attributed the decline in the self-poverty rate to the administration’s programs against hunger and poverty.
“This is a confirmation that indeed the anti-poverty programs of President Arroyo are working and right on target,” he said.
Remonde said the results were significant, considering that the decline came in the midst of the global financial crisis.
“We don’t want to look like we’re bragging but we can say that the result is very inspiring and it inspires us to continue pursuing our anti-poverty program,” he said.
Remonde said that the National Anti-Poverty Commission under Mrs. Arroyo’s leadership has steered the government in the right direction on the efforts to reduce poverty.
The government has implemented several programs to address hunger and poverty, including providing cash and food subsidies to the poor, he added. —– Helen Flores with Marvin Sy, Philippine Star