MANILA, Philippines — The Marcos administration is confident of bringing down the country’s poverty rate to single digit levels before President Marcos’ term ends in 2028 through the creation of quality jobs and improvement of the social protection system, among other measures, a member of the economic team said yesterday.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said this goal is achievable amid global headwinds and the challenges of higher inflation rate.
“But associated with that would be the generation of not just more jobs but higher quality jobs. And those two, growths and jobs, and paying attention to social protection to address shocks like typhoons and crises… enable us to achieve faster reduction of poverty from where it is today to single digit, at nine percent actually,” Balisacan said during a meeting with Marcos in Malacañang yesterday.
Marcos met officials of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) a day after arriving from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he attended the four-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit, his first as Chief Executive.
A Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey taken from Sept. 29 to Oct. 2 found 49 percent of Filipino families rating themselves as poor. This was the first SWS poll on poverty incidence conducted under the Marcos administration.
Meanwhile, the President will present the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023 to 2028 next month, according to Balisacan.
“It will come out next month and we already briefed him on what the major elements… the key elements of those plans, and he provided comments, suggestions moving forward,” he said.
The plan involves actionable strategies to develop the domestic market, considering its vast potential for both foreign and local investors, a commitment mentioned by the Chief Executive in his meeting with global leaders at the recently concluded summits, the official said.
“He emphasized that the plan should address the concerns of the development… of the local markets, which is the right thing to do, ensuring that they receive the same assistance,” Balisacan said.
The NEDA chief said this is the first time the PDP is being presented before the start of the first full year of the President.
“What happened before is all the ships are already in the middle of the sea. They are casting their own nets already. Now it’s there. So there is now greater opportunity for coordination of agencies,” he pointed out.
In the plan, Balisacan said that a framework for regular monitoring and evaluation of its implementation is also in place.
“So every year, we will provide a report to the President on how the plan is being implemented and the performance and the various metrics or targets that have [been] indicated in the plan,” he added.
Cutting the poverty incidence to nine percent by 2028 and elevating the country to upper-middle-income status were among the promises Marcos made during his first State of the Nation Address in July.
In a speech at the Asia Society headquarters in New York in September, Marcos said he hopes no Filipino will go hungry again by the end of his term, with his administration focused on reviving the economy, particularly on boosting the country’s agricultural sector.
“To put it very simply, I have been asked what is the absolute end result that we are hoping to achieve and it’s very simple for me: not one more hungry Filipino,” the President told former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is Asia Society president and chief executive officer.
Marcos concurrently serves as agriculture secretary.
Less stunted, more obese
The 2021 Expanded National Nutrition Survey (ENNS) by the Department of Science and Technology-Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI) revealed yesterday that one in every four, or 26.7 percent, of children under five years old was stunted.
The DOST-FNRI said that this was better than the country’s adjusted target of 28.8 percent stunting rate in the Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (PPAN) 2017-2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ENNS also revealed that thinness or wasting prevalence among under five and school-age children 5 to 10 years old were 5.5 percent and 6.9 percent, respectively, which were also lower than the adjusted targets in the PPAN.
In contrast, obesity among these age groups are 3.9 percent and 14.0 percent, respectively, which did not meet the PPAN targets of no increase or reduced obesity prevalence.
The same trend was seen among adolescents and adults, 20 years old and above, where overweight and obesity are 13.0 percent and 38.6 percent, respectively, which were higher than the targets.
Exclusive breastfeeding was practiced among 60.1 percent of mothers of infants.
However, only one in every 10 or 13.3 percent of children 6-23 months old met the minimum acceptable diet, indicating poor quality and quantity of complementary foods.
The 2021 ENNS showed a general picture of the food and nutritional situation the country was experiencing during pandemic surges.
The survey was conducted from July 2021 to June 2022 in 37 provinces and highly-urbanized cities across the country.
A total of 141,189 respondents were covered in the 2021 ENNS, which included assessment of weight and height measurements of all household members, blood pressure, sugar and lipid profile of adults.
Also included in the survey were vitamin A, iodine and iron status of selected population groups, dietary intake of all household members, breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding practices of children, household food security status and socio-economic profile of households.
Other results showed that smoking and alcohol drinking among adults continued even with some mobility restrictions during the pandemic.
About one in every five or 19.0 percent of adults was a current smoker, which was more common among males at 39.2 percent than females at 3.8 percent.
Moreover, about a quarter or 24.4 percent of adults were current alcohol drinkers in the past 30 days, which was also significantly higher among males at 41.3 percent than females at11.7 percent.
Insufficiently physically active adults were observed in four out of 10 or 40.5 percent, which was more common among females than males.
The results from the survey are valuable data in crafting policies and programs addressing the effects of the pandemic and moving towards full recovery and achieving the country’s commitment to global development goals.
Other food, nutrition and health indicators from the survey will be presented at the National Nutrition Summit on Nov. 14, 2022 at the Dusit Thani Manila, Makati City.
The presentation can also be accessed through DOST-FNRI e-nutrition website: http://www.enutrition.fnri.dost.gov.ph and the event will be live-streamed via the DOST-FNRI Facebook page.
Healthy eating habits
To prevent obesity, the Department of Health (DOH) yesterday urged the public to adopt healthy eating habits.
DOH Officer-in-Charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said they are encouraging both adults and children to make healthy food choices to avoid becoming obese.
“The obesity or being overweight of a child or an adult can be determined based on the choices of food they eat. We need to have healthy food choices,” said Vergeire at a press briefing.
The DOH issued the statement in response to the 2021 ENNS.
Vergeire said, “Parents must closely monitor the food choices of their children, especially on calories.”
At the same time, the health official also called on the public to have a more physical lifestyle, especially with community restrictions slowly being eased.
“We need the physical activity. Once our metabolism speeds up, we can burn more of what we eat,” she said.
Vergeire likewise said there is a need to take out bad habits and unhealthy vices. “We need to stop drinking alcoholic drinks, smoking and sleeping late,” she added.
“Failure to avoid unhealthy habits may result IN different non-communicable diseases since obesity can be a precursor to diabetes, heart diseases, stroke, among others,” said Vergeire. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Rhodina Villanueva