Press Conference on the 2012 Full-Year Poverty Statistics 
National Statistical Coordination Board, Makati City 
09 December 2013

(Delivered by NEDA Assistant Director-General Rosemarie G. Edillon)

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media, good morning. Allow me to read to you this Statement on behalf of Secretary Balisacan. 

As the NSCB reported, poverty incidence slightly declined in 2012 to 25.2 percent of population from 26.3% percent and to 19.7 % from 20.5 percent among families in 2009. This is still a slow decline, but we will take it as indication of accomplishment, or more accurately, a work in progress, in the fight against poverty. More importantly, we will take in all of the lessons derived from this recent profile and fine-tune our strategies accordingly. 

At the regional level, 13 out of 17 regions across the country experienced a reduction in poverty incidence in 2012 compared to 2009. The brightest spot is the region of CARAGA, dropping a remarkable 14.2 percentage points in poverty incidence among families. This marked improvement reflects the impact on poverty of CARAGA’s robust growth of 10.6 percent in 2012, the second fastest gross regional domestic product growth among all regions, coming from an 8.5 percent growth in 2011. 

The increase in poverty incidence in the four regions – SOCCSKSARGEN (XII), the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Eastern Visayas (VIII) and NCR could be explained by the weak economic growth in these regions and/or the occurrence of major calamities. Poverty incidence in the ARMM increased by 6.3 percentage points than the figure in 2009. This could be partly explained by the weak growth in the region’s output. ARMM’s economy contracted by 0.3 percent in 2011 and grew by a meager 1.2 percent in 2012. Added to this is the high food inflation, averaging 7.1 percent over the 3-year period in the region. As we know, high food inflation disproportionately affects the poor who then needs to spend even higher just to meet their minimum food needs. This also explains the big jump in the incidence of the subsistence poor in the region, from 14.2 in 2009 to 25.1 percent in 2012. 

Output in Region VIII contracted by 6.2 percent in 2012 because of the temporary shutdown of PASAR early in the year. Hence, the almost 3 percentage points increase in poverty incidence in the region. 

On the other hand, Region XII’s real GRDP grew by 8.1 percent in 2012. However, its December output may have been drastically reduced due to typhoon Pablo which affected parts of Mindanao. This would explain, for instance, the huge increase in poverty incidence in North Cotabato, of 21.5 percentage points. Even the slight uptick in poverty incidence in NCR could be due to the impact of Habagat last year. 

So, what do we make of all these? 

First, this profile supports the thesis that it will require no less than sustained high economic growth, as reflected by the case of CARAGA and some other provinces. Still, the growth impact on the poor can be enhanced by deliberate programs and policies to enable the poor to participate in the growth process. To address this, the government has been implementing programs and projects like the Pantawid Pamilya Program, the Community-Based Employment Program, and the Sustainable Livelihood Program, among others, to empower the most vulnerable sectors of our society. 

Second, we really need to consider regional and provincial disparities in poverty across the country. This is why we need to have more focused strategies based on geographical and spatial considerations. Deliberate strategies to promote growth outside NCR, through infrastructure development and investment in human capital provide a pathway towards equalizing development opportunities. Then, for provinces with high magnitude of poverty but low poverty incidence, it is important to promote higher growth to create more employment opportunities, and to improve human capital and introduce flexible work arrangements for the poor. As for areas with low magnitude of poverty but high poverty incidence, interventions in these areas should focus on providing social assistance programs that promote economic and physical mobility, while economic opportunities are being created. The logistics and distribution system also need to be improved in order to reduce the pressure on food prices. 

Third, and a very important consideration at this time, is the impact of natural disasters on poverty. These occurrences have the power to negate gains in economic growth and development. From 2010 to 2012, there were about eight typhoons that have brought tremendous damages and losses in terms infrastructure and economic activity. Disasters like these have profound effects on the local economies and recovery usually takes an even longer time. These also signal the need for an urgent and deliberate focus on disaster risk reduction and mitigation for these areas, coupled with social insurance protection and income diversification. 

In some areas, the calamities are actually man-made, like the Zamboanga siege in October of this year. Pursuing lasting peace should then be a major strategy around the conflict areas; still another type of disaster risk reduction. 

Indeed, poverty is a complex problem that needs a comprehensive, multi-pronged, multi-sectoral solution involving many stakeholders. It is a daunting challenge, to say the least, but this is one we are determined to meet head on. 

Finally, I would like to thank the Technical Committee on Poverty Statistics, the NSCB Technical Secretariat, the NSO, and the statistical community in general, for coming out with these important statistics. We hope to make use of these statistics and the researches that would come out of these to inform further our strategies to reduce poverty in our country. 

Salamat at mabuhay tayong lahat.