As delivered: Presentation on Social Protection and Human Capital Development
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia
Asia Pacific Social Protection Week 2019
ADB Headquarters, Manila, Philippines
September 9, 2019

Secretary Ali Raza Bhutta of Benazir Income Support Program Pakistan, ADB Vice President Bambang Susantono, ADB Director General Ramesh Subramaniam, distinguished members of the human and social development staff of ADB,  Naoyuki Yoshino,  the dean of the ADBI, ladies and gentlemen, a pleasant good morning.

For starters, may I draw your attention to the logo located at the lower left corner of the screen.  That is NEDA’s logo or coat of arms which indicates that people are at the center of our planning. It indicates a human being– a woman, man or child, or any human in any country, I think and for sure that’s what we’re trying to do in the Philippines. While it is the duty of the government to improve the physical and financial capital of the country, direct interventions for the people through human capital investments must also be pursued. And even with greater importance and urgency.

Let me share with you the Philippines’ efforts with regard to social protection and human capital development.

Human capital is typically considered as the sum of knowledge, skills, experience, well-being and other social qualities that contribute to a person’s ability to perform thereby producing economic and social value.

The two main factors that contribute to human capital formation are typically healthcare and education.

Given the challenge of poverty and other vulnerabilities to risks, the government intervenes through social protection programs to safeguard households against income shocks.

In 2007, the Philippines adopted the Philippine Definition of Social Protection, as follows, and I think it aligns very well with that of ADB’s and UNESCAP’s:

“Social Protection constitutes policies and programs that seek to reduce poverty and vulnerability to risks and enhance the social status and rights of the marginalized by promoting and protecting livelihood and employment, protecting against hazards and sudden loss of income, and improving people’s capacity to manage risks.”

We have the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, our guide in formulating policies and implementing programs for the medium term of this administration. Chapters 10 and 11 of the Plan entitled, Accelerating Human Capital Development and Reducing Vulnerability of Individuals and Families, respectively, lists strategies aimed at achieving specific outcomes. Among others, these are to guarantee care at all life stages; ensure functional service delivery networks; safeguard households against economic shocks; achieve basic education for all; and improve employability and labor productivity.

The good news is that we have made inroads in strengthening social protection and human capital development in the last decade. Some policies and programs we have introduced and implemented include:

  • the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT). This program has been institutionalized. It has become a law
  • the adoption of the national household targeting system for poverty reduction or  what we call the Listahanan in 2010;
  • the introduction of the sustainable livelihood program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development in 2011;
  • the provision of Philhealth insurance coverage for all Pantawid beneficiaries in 2012 and all senior citizens in 2014;
  • the adoption of the revised social protection operational framework in 2019 to account for climate change and disaster risk reduction and management strategies, and highlight the programs’ fiscal sustainability;
  • the passage of the expanded maternity leave and the Social Security Act which introduces the unemployment insurance to cushion the impact of involuntary separation from work in February 2019; and
  • the Philippine Identification System (PhilSys) or National ID, which is now ongoing pilot testing. This will facilitate transaction between individuals and business sector as well as between individuals and government.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) or Conditional Cash Transfers (CCT) is a priority social protection program of the government focusing on the human capital development of the children of poor families in order to break the intergenerational poverty transmission cycle. It provides conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve the health and education of children aged 0-18 years and the health of expectant mothers.  To date, this program, with its 2019 budget of Php90 billion or around USD1.7 billion, serves more than 4 million beneficiaries.

Despite these achievements, we still face challenges in breaking the poverty cycle. While the recent poverty incidence level improved to 21 percent in the 1st half of 2018 (versus 28 percent in the first half of 2015), there remains considerable number of Filipinos living below the poverty line.  We must continue to work together to help the poor and the vulnerable become self-sufficient and self-reliant.  For instance, the 4Ps Act will only provide conditional cash transfers to its beneficiaries for a maximum of 7 years.  To ensure that the beneficiaries will not fall back into poverty once they are out of the Pantawid program, an enhanced Sustainable Livelihood Program will be implemented to support their transition.

Preliminary data from the Department of Labor and Employment’s profiling activities show that there are more than 80,000 child laborers as of January 2019. Child labor is a violation of fundamental human rights and is believed to hinder children’s development, potentially leading to lifelong physical or psychological damage. Through the adoption of a more holistic approach in combatting child labor and the roll-out of the Child Labor Local Registry, child laborers and their families will be referred for appropriate services and will be more easily monitored by the implementing agencies.

We still have much work to do to achieve universal and transformative social protection and human capital development. To my co-panelists today, I am interested to learn about your countries’ respective policies and programs and how you have been handling unforeseen bottlenecks. We in the Asia Pacific must rally together towards our citizenry’s full achievement of their human capital potential, leaving no one behind, and even worse leaving them forsaken especially the poor, the marginalized,  and the migrants.

Thank you, and a pleasant and productive morning to all of us.


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