Addressing extreme poverty

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“The Filipino people need to be more aware of the existence of extreme poverty and what the government is doing to lessen, if not eradicate, the problem.

When President Rodrigo Roa Duterte assumed office in June 2016, more than 26 million Filipinos were living in poverty, about half of whom were in extreme poverty. Extreme poverty is defined by the United Nations as “a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information.”

The President fully understood the plight of the poor. In his more than two decades of service as a mayor, he spent time with them almost daily. He listened to their concerns and most of all, he worked with his fellow local government officials and with government agencies to address the needs of the poor and greatly alleviate their suffering.

So, it came as no surprise to those who knew the President when the very first Executive Order he signed was an anti-poverty measure. Executive Order 1, s. 2016, or EO 1, re-engineered the administrative structure of the Office of the President and placed 12 government agencies under the supervision of the Cabinet secretary. It also created the Office of the Special Assistant to the President.

Under the supervision of the Cabinet secretary, the agencies were tasked to “evaluate existing poverty reduction programs” and “formulate a more responsive set of programs…
to reduce both the incidence and magnitude of poverty” in the Philippines. Each of the agencies had anti-poverty programs, but they worked independently of one another or had minimal cooperation. The EO enabled them to streamline services and carry out more efficient and more effective anti-poverty programs.

I’m recalling EO 1 today because 17 to 23 October is the National Week for Overcoming Extreme Poverty as declared in Proclamation 717, s. 2004. The Filipino people need to be more aware of the existence of extreme poverty and what the government is doing to lessen, if not eradicate, the problem.

The government has concrete plans and programs in place. Economic experts cite the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) as one of the major contributing factors to the steady decline of poverty rate in the Philippines. From 26.6 percent in 2006, the poverty rate was reduced to 21.6 percent in 2015. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo first implemented 4Ps and under the administration of President Duterte, 4Ps currently benefits 4.28 million active household and family beneficiaries nationwide.

The administration has systematic and comprehensive programs for poverty reduction, unlike its critics who refuse to recognize the obvious positive change happening in the country and choose instead to spread negativity.

Leni Robredo was given a position in the Cabinet so that she could contribute to the government with concrete actions, but she opted to destroy and discredit President Duterte and the people that she was working with.

Now she claims to be working independently to help the poor and she grabs every opportunity to brag about her accomplishments, but all she’s really doing is taking credit for the anti-poverty programs and projects funded or sponsored by private individuals by non-government organizations and even by government agencies.

“The LP and some critics are baffled as to why Tatay Digong continues to enjoy popular support.

She could have done so much for the poor when she was given the opportunity to head the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. But instead of focusing on her duties and responsibilities, she would constantly speak ill of the President and the administration. It was obvious that what she only wanted was to advance her and her party’s political agenda.

Leni Robredo and the Liberal Party (LP) believe that doing one-day immersion programs and token donations then conducting press releases and photo opportunities are enough to understand the poor and make the poor like them. This is typical of the haciendero-mindset of throwing away money to solve problems and gain support. But this will not work anymore. No amount of money or fine words can ever replace their lack of empathy and genuine humanity.

That is why the LP and some critics are baffled as to why Tatay Digong continues to enjoy popular support. The poor know what they need and they are more than capable of recognizing who can truly help them. The President understands the poor and the poor understand the President because he has been there since day one, addressing their needs day-in and day-out for the past several decades.

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Blast from the past: On 15 October 2013, a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the island province of Bohol. More than 200 people died, nearly a thousand were injured and billions worth of damage were reported. Irreplaceable historical and cultural treasures were either lost or destroyed on that day.

The earthquake occurred just three weeks before super typhoon “Yolanda” struck — a series of events that exposed the previous administration’s incompetence and the country’s severe lack of preparation to respond to disasters. The lessons learned from the mistakes made during these two calamities became the basis of the disaster preparations of the government today.

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