Statement on the 2021 first semester official poverty statistics
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua
December 17, 2021

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

Recent developments

At the start of the Duterte administration in 2016, we pursued the zero-to-ten point socioeconomic agenda to help us achieve the Ambisyon Natin 2040, a vision that reflects the Filipino people’s collective aspiration to end extreme poverty by 2040. For the medium-term, we set a goal of lifting six million Filipinos out of poverty by 2022. This was achieved four years ahead of schedule in 2018.

This early gain in reducing poverty was driven by prudent macroeconomic management and the enactment of a number of reforms that increased real income opportunities for the people. These include the comprehensive tax reform program that increased real income and funded more social services and infrastructure, the Build, Build, Build program that helped create millions of jobs, and the Rice Tariffication Law that brought down rice prices and inflation, among other reforms.

Even when we had achieved our 2022 poverty goals by 2018, this government did not slow down on its reform agenda. We institutionalized the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps, the government’s largest social protection program. We also enacted the universal health care program and the National ID.

The results of these game-changing reforms are clear. Prior to the pandemic, economic growth averaged 6 percent, inflation averaged 3 percent, and the rates of poverty, unemployment, and underemployment were at record lows.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic temporarily halted our progress. In 2020, people’s income and jobs were significantly affected by stringent quarantines. As we began to cope with the virus starting the fourth quarter of 2020, we gradually relaxed restrictions and managed risks better. By the first half of 2021, quarantine imposition became more targeted at areas of highest risks, while allowing more sectors to operate. The start of the vaccination program enabled the safer reopening of the economy, allowing some 1.3 million workers to regain their employment compared to the pre-pandemic level.

Our policy to safely reopen the economy has accelerated our recovery and moderated the impact of the pandemic on the poor.

2021 first semester poverty statistics

As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) today, the poverty incidence among the population increased to 23.7 percent during the first half of 2021 from 21.1 percent in the same period of 2018. This translates to 3.9 million more Filipinos living in poverty.

Regions with stricter quarantines tended to see larger increases in poverty compared to regions under less stringent quarantines. For instance, the poverty incidence in Regions III, IV-A, and VII increased by over four percentage points. The poverty incidence in the National Capital Region also increased by around 1.2 percentage points.

On the other hand, five regions with lesser quarantine restrictions recorded lower poverty. These are BARMM, and Regions VIII, IX, XI, and the Cordillera Administrative Region. BARMM saw the largest poverty reduction of 17.4 percentage points, also reflecting the progress made on the peace process.

With stronger growth in the second half of 2021 as we further relax restrictions and increase the vaccination rate, we can expect poverty incidence to decrease.


In the final months of the Duterte administration, we will vigorously pursue the economy’s full recovery to restore jobs and bring more people out of poverty. Our recovery strategy in 2022 consists of the Economic Development Cluster’s 10-point policy agenda to further accelerate and sustain our recovery.

The 10-point policy agenda covers the following areas: 1) metrics; 2) vaccination; 3) healthcare capacity; 4) economy and mobility; 5) schooling; 6) domestic travel; 7) international travel; 8) digital transformation; 9) enacting a pandemic flexibility bill, and 10) medium-term preparation for a pandemic resilience. These policies will facilitate our shift to an “endemic” paradigm where we learn to live with the virus and promote the overall welfare of the people beyond COVID-19.

COVID-19 has tested our resolve to achieve the Ambisyon Natin 2040, but we will not waver in our goal to provide a better life for all Filipinos. We remain committed to building a stronger and more inclusive economy, where everyone, especially the poor, is provided equal opportunities to succeed. We will also improve our social protection programs to support the vulnerable. To this end, we accelerated the implementation of the PhilSys or the National ID program to provide every Filipino with a unique and digitalized proof of identity.

As of December 10 of this year, we achieved our target of registering 50 million Filipinos to the National ID program. The Land Bank of the Philippines, our partner, has also opened more than 6.7 million bank accounts among low-income registrants, helping us get closer to our goal of achieving 100 percent financial inclusion at the family level.

A fully digital ID system will allow the government to more efficiently target beneficiaries for social protection programs and directly deposit cash assistance to their bank accounts. This will transform how the government delivers social and financial assistance and help lift more Filipinos out of poverty.

We end this year on track to an early recovery. Our growth prospects are encouraging. As we collectively strive towards our 2040 vision, the poor will be at the center of our recovery and development strategy. No one will be left behind.

Thank you very much. The NEDA and PSA family wishes everyone a Merry Christmas and a safe holiday season. Thank you. 

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