December 6, 2019 | Century Park Hotel Manila


Members of the Philippine Statistics Authority,

Colleagues from NEDA,

Friends from the media,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

We are pleased that the official poverty statistics for the full-year of 2018 reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority show significant progress, not just in terms of increasing overall income but also reducing inequality.

Poverty incidence further dropping to 16.6 percent of the population in 2018 from 23.3 percent in 2015 tells us that we are on track in meeting our targets set under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

With a poverty reduction rate of 2.23 percentage points per annum, we are not only on track to meet our PDP target of bringing down poverty incidence to 14 percent by 2022.  We are also likely to meet the Sustainable Development Goal or SDG target of eradicating extreme poverty, as defined by the international poverty line, and cutting by half the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line by 2030.

In fact, we have almost reached our target to lift 6 million Filipinos out of poverty by 2022 as 5.9 million have already been lifted out of poverty as of 2018.

These demonstrate that the strategies elaborated in the Philippine Development Plan  2017-2022 do result in inclusive growth.  The implementation of these strategies need to be sustained.

The significant reduction in poverty is largely attributed to the improved labor market conditions that increased the salaries and wages of the poor.

With a vibrant economy that continues to generate good jobs, the mean salaries and wages for the population went up by 22.8 percent to PHP156,114 in 2018, from PHP127,122 in 2015. For those in the bottom 30 percent of the population,  mean per capita income increased by 31.87 percent. This outpaced the 18 percent income growth experienced by the top 20 percent of households. This is a good sign that our programs targeting the poor are working well.

The sustained implementation, expansion, and enhancement of the government’s social assistance programs (i.e., Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, Unconditional Cash Transfer, Pantawid Pasada, and Social Pension) provided additional income to the poorest sectors of the society.

Transfers, which include cash transfers from the government, received by households from the bottom three deciles increased by 34.8 percent, 32.8 percent, and 25.0 percent respectively.

The full implementation of the social pension program likewise augmented the incomes of poor households particularly the first income decile. Families from the first income decile experienced a 52.6 percent increase in their pension and retirement benefits during 2015-2018, compared to the national average of -5.7.

Meanwhile, poverty gap –or the ratio by which the average income of the poor falls below the poverty line — as well as the severity of poverty consistently improved in 2018 relative to 2015. Specifically, poverty gap decreased to 2.6 percent from 4.5 percent, while severity of poverty was reduced to 0.9 percent from 1.7 percent. These indicators signify that incomes of the poor are also increasing.

I would also like to highlight that the broad-based decline in poverty incidence has eased disparities across regions. All regions recorded a decline in poverty incidence among families, except for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. From 2015 to 2018, the largest drop in poverty incidence was recorded in Region 10 and Region VII.

Notable improvements in poverty incidence and mean per capita income across regions were also reflected in other measures of poverty, validating improvements in lagging areas and those who are below the poverty line.

Moving forward, we need to sustain, if not further enhance, the strategies already indicated in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, noting that our vision is to end poverty by 2040.  Given this, the government needs to be consistent in its robust poverty reduction efforts, especially in accelerating human capital development and expanding economic opportunities to hasten reduction in poverty and inequality across all regions in the country.

The reforms we have initiated should be fully implemented to increase the country’s competitiveness and attract more investments. Efforts to improve regional connectivity, in accordance with  the National Spatial Strategy, must be accelerated  to facilitate the creation of opportunities for production and increase in employment and livelihood opportunities in regions outside Metro Manila and urban growth centers.

Moreover, we need to consider that constant displacement and insecure property rights brought about by conflict discourages private investments and reduces incentives to put up businesses and generate employment. Therefore, peace-building efforts particularly in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao must be sustained.

Meanwhile, we need to direct efforts towards greatly improving the quality of education for Filipinos, especially the poor and disadvantaged. The recently released Programme for the International Assessment of Students (PISA) by the OECD showed that the reading literacy of 15-year old Filipino learners is 340 (lowest), 353 in mathematical literacy (second lowest), and 357 in scientific literacy (second lowest) among 79 participating countries. We take these results as a major challenge.

The Department of Education has embarked on Sulong EduKalidad, which aims to update the K to 12 curriculum, improve the learning environment for students, upskill and reskill teachers, and engage stakeholders for support and collaboration.

It is also important to pay attention to other factors affecting education outcomes. We need to reduce stunting, which results in poor cognition and educational performance among Filipinos.  We also need an effective strategy to reduce teenage pregnancy, which reduces the chances of completion of education.

In this regard, the Early Childhood Care and Development Council’s ‘First 1,000 Days’ program, provides a holistic approach towards the development of the country’s human resources through nutrition, health, early education, and social development interventions focusing on the first 1000 days of a child’s life – the period from pregnancy up to two years. Moreover, comprehensive sexuality education has already been introduced.  These need to be complemented by efforts from church, community and other organizations to effectively reduce teenage pregnancy.

We also need to reduce child dependency ratios to relax social and household budget constraints.

To reduce vulnerabilities so that those who are no longer poor do not slide back to poverty in cases of unfortunate circumstances, we need to effectively support savings mobilization. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps should deliberately encourage savings as one of its program components and not a ground for disqualification among beneficiaries.

Finally, the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program  is needed to accelerate poverty reduction and to sustainably address inequality by making the tax system simpler, fairer, and more efficient.  At the same time, the tax system must provide sustainable funding for the various physical, social and human capital investments.

Rest assured that we in the government will continue our efforts to improve the quality of life of our people, leaving no one behind. And as you already know, our goal goes beyond poverty reduction; it is about enabling every Filipino to enjoy a matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay.

Thank you, and once again, a pleasant morning to all of you.