By Mario Casayuran
The Senate economic affairs committee said Friday the government needs to continue providing Filipinos with more well-paying jobs to increase the pace of poverty reduction in the country despite poverty incidence dropping to a three-year low.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, committee chairman, issued 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.
Gatchalian 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 (CCTP) had been instrumental in reducing the country’s poverty rate.
Gatchalian, however, noted that poverty reduction in the Philippines has been slow compared to its Southeast Asian neighbors such as 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 (Association of Southeast Nations). 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, according to Gatchalian, that he has been pushing for the passage of Senate Bill 2171 (SB 2171) or the Philippine Warehouse Receipts Act of 2019, which the senator said would help boost the country’s agricultural productivity and food security, while improving farmers’ margins in the long run.
The Senate bill, once enacted into law, 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 favorable.
At present, Gatchalian said farmers have no option but to sell their goods immediately before harvest, even at a loss, due to the lack 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.
What they need to do is deposit their goods and products in a warehouse, after which they will be issued a warehouse receipt, a document which they may easily trade, barter, sell, or use as collateral to get the necessary credit.
“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.