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Self-rated poverty steadies in 1st quarter

Posted on May 05, 2015

THE NUMBER of Filipinos who consider themselves poor was unchanged last quarter, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in a new report, noting a decline of those saying so in Metro Manila was offset by an increase particularly in the Visayas.

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Results of a March 20-23 survey among 1,200 adults nationwide -- with sampling error margins of ±3 points for national percentages and ±6 points each for Metro Manila, “Balance Luzon,” the Visayas, and Mindanao -- showed 51% of respondents rating themselves “mahirap” or poor, unchanged from the 52% or around 11.4 million families recorded in the December survey.

SWS also noted that last quarter’s result was just “3 points below the 54% average for the four quarters of 2014” that, in turn, was the worst annual rating in this administration and the same average seen in 2006.

The latest survey recorded a 12-point drop among Metro Manila respondents to 31% from the 43% recorded in the December survey. The latest figure is the lowest since June 2004 which bore the same percentage.

The improvement in Metro Manila, however, was offset by a five-point increase in the Visayas to 70% (from 65%) and a two-point uptick in Mindanao to 62% (from 60%). The situation in Luzon areas outside Metro Manila hardly changed, though slipping to 44% from 45% the previous quarter.

At the same time, improvements were seen among those who rated themselves poor in terms of food, with a five-point decline to 36% (about 7.9 million families) last March from a 41% (about 9.1 million families) in December.

SWS attributed the drop to decreases of nine points in “Balance Luzon” to a record-low 28% in March, four points in Metro Manila to 20% that was the lowest since the record-low 19% notched in March 2001, and six points in the Visayas to 45% that was the lowest since June 2013’s 44%, as well as 52% in Mindanao that was steady since the September 2014 survey.

The survey also found median self-rated poverty threshold -- the lowest monthly home expense budget needed by the poorer half of poor households not to consider themselves as such -- at P15,000 in Metro Manila (from P20,000 in December) and in “Balance Luzon” (from P8,000) as well as P10,000 in the Visayas (from P12,000) and in Mindanao (flat). SWS noted that the amounts for “Balance Luzon” and Mindanao “are at the highest levels...”

Median food poverty threshold -- the lowest monthly food budget needed by the poorer half of “food-poor” families not to consider themselves as such -- was P9,000 in Metro Manila, P6,000 in “Balance Luzon”, P4,750 in the Visayas and P5,000 in Mindanao. SWS noted the amounts for most areas, except for the Visayas, were at record-high levels.

Sought for comment, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio B. Coloma, Jr. said via text that “[t]he decline in self-rated poverty, accompanied by a larger drop in number of food-poor... provides proof positive that... poverty reduction programs of the government are bearing fruit.”

But to Edmund S. Tayao, political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas: “If it (programs) is working, the drastic increase will have to be at least 10% or anywhere above the margin of error.” -- Melissa Luz T. Lopez