Focus on poverty to address rich-poor gap, gov’t leaders urged

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MANILA, August 10, 2013—A non-governmental organization (NGO) sectoral council on Friday called on the Aquino administration to address the widening gap between the rich and poor Filipinos by curtailing poverty and addressing the needs of marginalized Filipinos, noting that inclusive growth across all sectors of the society will only be achieved once this perennial problem is addressed. 

Paul Paraguya, member of the NGO sectoral council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), said that the government must focus more on alleviating the plight of Filipino individuals suffering from the shackles of poverty instead of continuously pushing for a robust economic growth that only benefits the rich and the few. 

“It is time to shift the perspective from growth to poverty. We have to stress the importance of eradicating poverty because if you do something for its curtailment, you extend help to a big number of Filipinos who are still suffering from this phenomenon,” he said in the vernacular during the Kilusang 99% academic forum held at the Adamson University. 

“Besides, poor Filipinos need more help than the affluent ones. If we will continue to focus on growth, millions of Filipinos will not be saved from poverty and will be left behind,” Paraguya added. 

He also criticized the 7.8 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth posted by the country in the first quarter of 2013, noting that this development only benefits the rich and affluent, and does not include the small and voiceless sectors of the society. 

“The country may have registered a high GDP growth, but the question is, are we really part of that growth?” he said, further adding that the exclusion of societal sectors has been an intentional move of people in authority. 

“This is not just a case of being included or not because there is really a move meant to exclude us. The problem lies not on inclusion and exclusion, but on marginalization for us not to attain progress,” he said 

Inclusion of social labor agenda 

Paraguya criticized the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) adopted by the government, saying it has not covered consultations with marginalized sectoral groups who are in dire need of change. 

PDP is the 6-year development agenda adopted by the government upon the election of a new president. 

“[Aquino] once said that this PDP will be our plan to attain progress. How will this be possible if halfway through his term, sectoral groups have not felt the effect of this PDP? More so, how are we going to be included in this plan if almost all of us present in this forum do not know anything about this?” he said. 

In developing economic plans, collaboration among government officials, private sector individuals, and civil society organizations is vital to come up with a comprehensive document that really covers the primary needs of the members of a society, he said. 

Citing the 2012 poverty incidence statistics released by the National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB), Paraguya said inclusive growth can be achieved through approaching the perennial problem of poverty through a sectoral perspective. 

According to the data coming from the NSCB, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) recorded the highest poverty incidence at 46.9 percent, while the National Capital Region (NCR) registered the lowest at 3.8 percent. 

“We have to address the problem through a sectoral approach because it is through this that we may logically group them in accordance with the degree of poverty they are experiencing,” he said. 

Sustainable development 

Paraguya urged government leaders to gain a deeper perspective in settling poverty, focusing not only on income, but as well as other human needs. 

“We are suggesting that the government approach the problem in a deeper sense—not solely focusing on the rate of income received by individuals, but assessing if people have shelters to live in, if tribes have been granted their much-yearned ancestral domain, and if farmers have ownership over the land they till, among many other scenarios,” he said. 

“Gaining access over resources is very important because it will address the issue of marginalization in the country. Through this, no one will be left behind in our road to progress,” he added. 

According to him, sustainable development is better than solely focusing on economic growth as the former safeguards not only the coffers of the country, but as well as its political, cultural, social, and environmental aspects. 

“Human resources are important in the same way that politics, culture, economy, and the environment are important. All of these must go hand-in-hand to attain sustainable development,” he noted. 

Moreover, he suggested the need for structural reform to address the anomalies of corruption hounding the country’s political landscape. 

“We should address our political problems via a structural reform because if we would only fix the scams without renewing the system, everything will remain the same,” he said. 

“The country’s development plan must involve the majority of marginalized Filipinos if it is really genuine growth and development that we are all after,” he added. (Jennifer M. Orillaza)

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