12 million families in Philippines say they are poor in latest report

A girl in Manila plays with her bag.

MANILA - A total of 12.1 million Filipino families considered themselves poor in September, while 9.3 million families said they were food-poor, according to a Social Weather Stations (SWS) report.

The nationwide survey, conducted from Sept. 26 to 29, found 55 per cent of the respondents saying they were poor, the same as in the previous quarter.

The survey also found 43 per cent saying they were food-poor in September, slightly more than the 41 per cent recorded in June. Results of the survey were first published in BusinessWorld.

The latest self-rated poverty and self-rated food poverty levels were higher than those in the same period last year.

In September 2013, self-rated poverty was 50 per cent while self-rated food poverty was 37 per cent.

Last month's self-rated poverty and food poverty rates (52 per cent and 39 per cent, respectively) were above the 2013 average.

The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 respondents and had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points.

On self-rated poverty, SWS asked 1,200 household heads to plot their family on a card with indicators stating "not poor," "on the line" and "poor."

For self-rated food poverty, respondents were told to plot their family on a card indicating whether they were "not poor," "on the line" or "poor" on the basis of their food situation over the past three months.

Lot of work

MalacaƱang on Monday acknowledged that the government still has a lot of work to do to reduce poverty, following the SWS survey.

"The consistent and focused poverty alleviation measures that the government has undertaken shows a positive effect on the reduction of poverty," presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda told reporters.

"But, of course, we would always prefer to do better than what we have done now."

In a separate statement, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. noted that the poverty incidence dropped by three points from the first quarter of 2012 to the same period the following year, based on the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Coloma said the same survey also showed a 2.7-point decrease in the "proportion of extremely poor Filipino individuals who could not afford to meet basic food requirements" during the same period.

Lacierda pointed out that the level of poverty described in the latest SWS survey was "self-rated."

"How come the people think that way? I don't know. It's a perception of the person so you really have to ask them," he said.

"We respect those surveys. But, again, the effort [to reduce poverty is] continuous. Regardless of what the surveys say, we have a focused approach to addressing poverty issues."

Up in Metro Manila, Luzon

Across areas, self-rated poverty increased in Metro Manila by six points, from 37 per cent to 43 per cent and in Luzon outside Metro Manila by seven points, from 45 per cent to 52 per cent.

Self-rated poverty fell in Mindanao by 10 points, from 71 per cent to 61 per cent and in Visayas by nine points, from 74 per cent to 65 per cent.

Self-rated food poverty went up from 27 per cent to 30 per cent in Metro Manila and from 32 per cent to 37 per cent in Luzon outside Metro Manila.

It barely moved in the Visayas, from 54 per cent to 53 per cent while it declined from 55 per cent to 52 per cent in Mindanao.

Under the Aquino administration, self-rated poverty ratings ranged between 45 per cent and 55 per cent, while self-rated food poverty ratings hovered between 35 per cent and 45 per cent.

The median self-rated poverty threshold, which is the monthly budget that would satisfy the poorer half of the poor households, rose in Metro Manila (from P12,000 ($341) to P15,000).

It stayed at P10,000 in the rest of Luzon and in Mindanao. In the Visayas, it dropped from P10,000 to P8,000.

"The September 2014 median self-rated poverty thresholds in Metro Manila, [the rest of] Luzon and Mindanao are at the highest levels ever reached in those areas, while the latest figure in the Visayas was previously surpassed in June 2014, when it was at P10,000," SWS said.

The median self-rated food poverty threshold, the monthly food budgets that food-poor households need in order not to consider themselves food-poor, rose in Metro Manila (from P6,000 to P8,000), in Luzon outside Metro Manila (from P5,000 to 5,250) and in Mindanao (from P4,500 to P5,000). It declined in the Visayas (from P5,000 to P3,550).

SWS noted that the September median self-rated food-poverty thresholds in Mindanao and the rest of Luzon were the highest levels in those areas, while the September level in Metro Manila had been surpassed in the past.

In the Visayas, the highest level so far was the P5,000 recorded in June.

Latest data from the government's Annual Poverty Indicators Survey (Apis) in 2013 showed that the poverty incidence among Filipino families was estimated at 19.1 per cent in the first semester of 2013, lower than the 22.3 per cent in the first semester of 2012.

The report, released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) in April, also showed that poverty incidence among Filipinos stood at 24.9 per cent, lower than the 27.9 per cent in the first semester of 2012.

The PSA now reports estimates of poverty incidence using income data from the Apis. Previous reports were based on the Family Income and Expenditure Survey conducted every three years.