Calamities may push more Filipinos into poverty: Neda

PHILIPPINES - Supertyphoon "Yolanda" and other natural calamities that have struck the Philippines may not drag down the country's overall growth but they could push more households into "transient" poverty, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said Friday.

Government economists believe a significant portion of the country's poor are "transient poor"-people who were previously not poor but were suddenly pushed below the poverty line because of untoward incidents, including natural calamities.

The latest poverty report said that 27.9 per cent of Filipinos were living below the poverty line in the first semester of 2012.

Neda Director General Arsenio Balisacan said with the series of natural calamities hitting the country, the government could not discount the possibility that some people living in the affected areas had been pushed into poverty because of the damage wrought on their properties and sources of income.

He said the Neda would study the impact of Yolanda and the recent earthquake on the country's poverty incidence.

Yolanda hit the Visayas less than a month after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the central Philippine region last month, severely affecting Bohol and Cebu provinces.

Based on the Neda's assessment, the Philippine economy could still maintain the robust growth it had exhibited in the first semester despite the earthquake and Yolanda.

However, while the impact of natural calamities on the country's gross domestic product (GDP) was not much of a concern, the social impact should be a worry, said Balisacan on the sidelines of a partnership ceremony between Ayala Corp. and the UP School of Economics, which will conduct a series of economic forums in the next three years.

Neda Deputy Director General Emmanuel Esguerra, meanwhile, said that the government agencies concerned were developing a programme that would serve as a safety net against transient poverty in times of calamity.

In particular, he said, the Department of Labor and Employment, Department of Agriculture and Department of Social Welfare and Development, among other agencies, were designing a programme to help families affected by calamities recover from lost income sources.

Such a programme, details of which are still being finalized, is expected to be part of the revised Philippine Development Plan that will be released before the end of the year.

Esguerra said that the programme may include financial help as well as technical assistance.

"The idea is that the programme should be responsive in a timely manner," Esguerra said.