By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, Businessworld, Jul 21, 2017
SELF-RATED poverty fell for the first time in three quarters, according to results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) quarterly survey that nevertheless said families are in need of more money to escape food poverty.
The pollster asked 1,200 heads of families face-to-face for its latest survey to gauge self-rated poverty, which it defines as the proportion of respondents rating their family as poor or mahirap.
It found 44% of respondents or an estimated 10.1 million families considering themselves poor, six points below the 50% or an estimated 11.5 million in March 2017. The Second Quarter 2017 Social Weather Survey, which was conducted on June 23-26, has sampling error margins of ±3 points for national percentages and ±6% each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.
The decline in self-rated poverty in the three months ending June broke two successive quarters of increases.
When President Rodrigo R. Duterte rose to power in June, self-rated poverty was 45% then fell to 42% by end-September quarter and has since risen for two consecutive quarters — 44% by end-December quarter and 50% in the first quarter of this year.
The June 2017 survey also reported that 32% (7.3 million families) rated their food as poor, termed by SWS as “food-poor.” This is three points below the 35% (8.1 million families) in the previous quarter.
“Prior to this, Self-Rated Food-Poverty had been either steady or increasing since April 2016,” the pollster likewise noted.
SWS attributed the six-point decrease in self-rated poverty rate nationwide to easing poverty in Balance Luzon and Metro Manila that cushioned slight increases in the Visayas and Mindanao.
Self-rated poverty declined by 16 points in Balance Luzon at 34% and slipped eight points in Metro Manila at 28%. Meanwhile, it rose by seven points in the Visayas at 64% and climbed four points in Mindanao at 57%.
On the other hand, SWS said the three-point fall in self-rated food poverty in the second quarter of 2017 was due to declines of 15 points in Balance Luzon to 27% and five points in Metro Manila to 16% that were tempered by increases of 11 points in the Visayas to 44% and six-points in Mindanao to 41%.
‘IN NEED OF MORE MONEY’
Those surveyed have set at P10,000 the monthly budget threshold for them not to be considered poor in general. The poll revealed that the families still lack P5,000 to meet that monthly threshold.
The median threshold, which refers to what the poorer half of the poor need for home expenses, differs across regions: P20,000 in Metro Manila, P15,000 in Balance Luzon, P10,000 in Visayas, and P10,000 in Mindanao.
“The latest figures… are the highest levels reached in those areas,” SWS said.
For self-rated food poverty, the threshold was P6,000 a month. The families said they are short of that threshold by P2,500 (national median).
“These values are higher in the June 2017 survey compared to their March 2017 counterparts, meaning families are in need of more money and lack more money to escape food poverty,” SWS said in its report.
The median self-rated food poverty threshold, which SWS defined as what the poorer half of the food-poor lack in order not to consider their food as poor, reached the “highest levels” by area: P9,000 in Metro Manila, P6,000 in Balance Luzon, P5,000 in the Visayas, and P5,000 in Mindanao.
Families in Metro Manila fell short of those median thresholds by P4,000; those in Balance Luzon, by P3,000; in Visayas, P2,000; and those in Mindanao, P3,000.
Sought for comment, Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said Malacañang is “pleased” with the survey results.
“The Duterte administration’s overarching goal is to bring comfortable life for all,” Mr. Abella said.
“Much has been accomplished in one year as people have started to feel some improvement. However, we have to do more, and with the support of business, civil society and other vital stakeholders, we can achieve our target to bring down poverty to 14% at the end of the President’s term,” he added.
Commenting on the SWS poll, Ramon C. Casiple, executive director at the Institute for Political and Electoral Reform, “partly” attributed the decline in self-rated poverty rate to “seasonal (harvest) and partly due to government policies” like the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and free irrigation.
On median self-rated poverty thresholds reaching the highest levels across geographical areas this quarter, Mr. Casiple said the findings “roughly correspond with the level of urbanization of these regions.”
Also sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund S. Tayao said: “It seems that there’s a significant gain on the part of the government to bring down [poverty] incidence if this is going to be any measure. But we have to validate it against the official statistics.”