Arsenio M. Balisacan, PhD


National Economic and Development Authority

Release of 2021 Full-Year Official Poverty Statistics 

Philippine Statistics Authority

PSA Complex, East Avenue, Diliman, Quezon City

15 August 2022 | 10:00 AM


Members of the media, colleagues in government, fellow Filipinos, good morning.

In 2018, we achieved our goal of lifting six million Filipinos out of poverty, four years ahead of our 2022 target. Our prudent macroeconomic management and the enactment of various reforms that increased real income opportunities for Filipinos made this possible.

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted our growth momentum and development trajectory.

Recently, we have seen hopeful signs of recovery for our country. Last week, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that our economy sustained its expansion in the second quarter of 2022, recording real GDP growth of 7.4 percent. Increased economic activities due to easing alert levels and tourism restrictions, and accelerated vaccine rollout helped us achieve this growth.

However, as also reported by PSA, the country’s full-year 2021 poverty incidence among the population significantly increased to 18.1 percent from 16.7 percent in 2018. This translates to 2.3 million more Filipinos being pushed into poverty from 2018 to 2021.

This also means that the country’s poverty incidence fell short of its 2021 target of 15.5 to 17.5 percent as indicated in the Updated Philippine Development Plan for 2017 to 2022.

The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, including income and employment losses, caused the poverty incidence to rise. Restrictions on mobility and low earning capacity of poor households due to limited access to regular and productive jobs made the lives of Filipinos difficult.

We take these 2021 poverty statistics as our baseline.

We do know that we have a tough road ahead, but we are already prepared to face these challenges head-on. The overall goal of the next Philippine Development Plan 2023-2028 is to reinvigorate job creation and poverty reduction. Our poverty reduction efforts will focus on three main areas: (1) full reopening of the economy, (2) more investments in human capital, social development, and social protection, and (3) transformation of the production sectors to generate more and quality jobs and competitive products.

First, the full reopening of the economy. We need to fully reopen the economy to steer the country back on the high-growth path. As indicated by the President during his first State of the Nation Address, there will be no more lockdowns. We will support this policy with an aggressive campaign on vaccination and boosters, and adopt science-based minimum public health standards. We will continue to improve our health system’s capacity to respond to the threats of COVID-19, as well as other health threats. We hope that everyone will respond by getting themselves fully vaccinated and convincing all their children, relatives, and friends to do the same. We also hope that everyone will continue to be patient in complying with the minimum public health standards.

Second, more investments in human capital and social development, and social protection. These will serve three objectives: (a) address the weaknesses in our service delivery of health care, nutrition, education, and social protection, (b) arrest the long-term scarring that COVID-19 has brought on our human capital, and (c) enhance the capabilities of Filipinos to be economically productive, and to weather and overcome any crisis.

COVID-19 has revealed the weaknesses in our health, nutrition, education, and social protection systems, mainly with the rigidity of delivery modes. We, in coordination with stakeholders, including civil society, will address these weaknesses. On social protection, we will make full use of the National ID to modernize and rationalize our social protection system. Some may need legislation, like the establishment of the Centers for Disease Control and the Virology Institute of the Philippines, and education reform.

Now is the time to begin undoing the damage that COVID-19 has inflicted on our students that may result in long-term productivity loss. We need to resume face-to-face classes. We have made sure that the COVID-19 vaccines for children are safe and widely accessible. We will continue to provide guidance on minimum public health standards and health risk assessments. We urge all schools to come up with innovative solutions to make studying in school as safe as possible.

Government has programs under TESDA, DTI, DOLE, and CHED, to name a few, that provide opportunities for Filipinos to enhance their skills for better quality employment. We will expand these programs in terms of coverage, content, and accessibility. We hope that the academe and research community can help enhance these programs and keep them updated. And we hope that more Filipinos will take advantage of these.

And finally, the transformation of the production sectors so that they generate more and better-quality job opportunities for Filipinos. At the same time, we want to see competitive products being produced in the Philippines, both for the Philippine and international markets.

Government will contribute to this transformation by easing the cost of doing business, including energy and transport, and providing greater support to R&D, technology development and adoption, and innovation. Inter-industry linkages will also be enhanced through physical and digital connectivity. Moreover, the government will be aggressive in promoting trade and attracting investments, taking off from the economic reforms enacted under the previous administration.

We hope that the scientific community, business sector, and investors will journey with us through this transformation and continue to innovate in their respective industries. We can work together to modernize Agriculture and Agri-business following a “farm-to-plate” value chain; revitalize Industry with a focus on manufacturing; and reinvigorate Services, including tourism, creative, and business processing sectors.

Given these strategies and our whole-of-society approach, we can reduce poverty incidence by 5 percentage points at midterm, and another 4 percentage points by 2028. We aim to reduce poverty incidence among Filipinos to 9 percent by 2028.

This COVID-19 pandemic may have disrupted our growth momentum but we are determined. We remain committed to deliver adequate, prudent, and timely policies to achieve our collective aspiration where no Filipino is poor and where every Filipino enjoys a matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay.

Thank you and a pleasant morning to all of you.