PSA VIII Press Conference on the
2018 Poverty Statistics of Region VIII
Summit Hotel, Tacloban City
31 January 2020, 8:30 AM

Delivered by:
NEDA VIII OIC-Regional Director

Colleagues in the government, partners from the private sector, friends from the media, guests, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.

We are pleased to announce that the poverty situation in Eastern Visayas has significantly improved. As reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the full year 2018 poverty incidence among population in the region dropped by 10.36 percentage points over the course of three years or from 41.22 percent in 2015 to 30.86 percent in 2018. Similarly, poverty incidence among families declined from 32.95 percent to 23.99 percent. The substantial decrease is attributable to the significant cuts in poverty incidence in all provinces of the region with Biliran having the lowest poverty incidence among population at 19.75 percent, followed by Southern Leyte (23.60%), Leyte (28.61%), Samar (29.05%), Northern Samar (34.03%), and Eastern Samar (49.54%).

Poverty gap or the ratio by which the average income of the poor falls below the poverty line decelerated by 3.8 percentage points or from 9.2 percent in 2015 to 5.4 percent in 2018. Likewise, the subsistence incidence among population or those whose income is not enough to meet even the basic food needs reduced by 9.3 percentage points from 19.3 in 2015. Also, the Gini index, which measures the degree to which household income is evenly distributed, improved by 1.9 percentage points over 2015-2018. All these indicate that the decrease in poverty was fairly broad-based and that progress has been made not just in terms of increasing overall income but reducing inequality as well.

The annual per capita poverty threshold of the region for 2018 was pegged at PhP24,979.00, lower than the national per capita poverty threshold of PhP25,744.00, but higher by 11.66 percent from the PhP22,371.00 in 2015. This means that a family of five (5) will need approximately PhP10,408.00/month to meet the basic food and non-food needs.

The remarkable reduction in poverty can be largely ascribed to the improved labor market conditions and other institutional reforms that increased incomes of the households, outweighing inflation. These include the income tax adjustments pursuant to the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, increase of the minimum wage in two successive years (2017 and 2018), implementation of the Salary Standardization Law, as well as the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, among others.

The notable shift in the economy’s labor composition from the informal to formal sector is another contributory factor as the latter provides a more stable source of income. This was evidenced by the decline in the number of workers in the agriculture sector from 43.7 percent in 2015 to 33 percent in 2018. On the other hand, employment in the service and industry sectors during the same period rose by 9 percentage points and 2 percentage points, respectively.

The regional labor market was vibrant with employment rate at 95.8 percent in 2018 from 94.6 percent in 2015. Unemployment rate was kept at low levels from 5.4 percent down to 4.2 percent. Remarkably, underemployment rate decreased from a high 31.7 percent to 21.4 percent or by 10.3 percentage points. This implies that additional quality jobs were generated, more were hired, resulting in greater households getting higher disposable incomes.

The improved status of poor households could also be credited to the sustained implementation, expansion, and enhancement of social protection programs such as the Sustainable Livelihood Program (SLP), which served a total of 20,878 households in 2018 through its different modalities. Out of this, 15,356 households were able to establish income generating livelihood through employment and/or micro-enterprise project. The program also provided various interventions such as skills trainings, job fair referrals, capacity building activities, and provision of seed capital fund and pre-employment assistance fund.

The Social Pension Program (SPP) has increased its coverage from a total of 68,948 beneficiaries in 2015 to 217,717 beneficiaries in 2018.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which recently provides an additional PhP600 rice subsidy per month, catered 257,294 households under the Regular Conditional Cash Transfer (RCCT) and 23,698 households for the Modified Conditional Cash Transfer (MCCT).

With the institutionalization of the 4Ps through Republic Act (RA) No. 11310, our goal of leaving no one behind becomes more possible. The program, envisioned to protect the poor and marginalized, and help build up their resilience, is expected to provide an improved and better quality of life among the lowest segments in our society.

Poverty reductions could also be partly attributed to the implementation of labor-enhancing and income-enriching agricultural interventions through social preparation and livelihood interventions of the Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program by the Department of Agriculture (DA). The program covers the three (3) provinces of the Samar Island, which belongs to the top 20 poorest provinces of the country. The program has been expanded to cover all provinces in the region. SAAD is intended to reduce poverty among the marginalized sectors in agriculture and fishery. On top of this, said provinces are recipients of DA’s Easy Access Credit Program (EACP), an agriculture-related financing activity that allows farmers and fisherfolks easy access to credit to enhance their productivity.

Despite the encouraging results, the region still remains one of the poorest in the country. Eastern Visayas ranked third poorest nationwide after ARMM (61.3%) and Region 9 (32.7%). The region also failed to hit the Eastern Visayas Regional Development Plan (RDP) 2017-2022 target of 28.78 percent poverty incidence among population in 2018 by 2.08 percentage points. Nonetheless, this latest data indicates that Eastern Visayas is on track of bringing down poverty incidence to 22.26 percent by 2022 and eventually attain its twin regional goals of robust and sustained economic growth and reduced poverty and inequality in all dimensions.

We must admit that sustaining this vigor is a challenge and uplifting more citizenries requires unity and hard work. Rest assured that the government will continue to work on poverty-alleviation efforts and better-targeted programs and projects to help augment incomes of the poor and disadvantaged sectors.

Bigger and broader reforms along governance, peace and security, and infrastructure development will be pursued to create new businesses and generate more jobs and livelihood opportunities.

Proactive measures to manage inflation, particularly for food, must be made as subdued movement of prices of basic commodities and services is critical in poverty alleviation. Slower inflation increases the purchasing power of the poor who are vulnerable to sudden price changes.

All these and other development strategies have been carefully considered in the recent Eastern Visayas RDP 2017-2022 midterm update. The Plan, now in its final review and layouting phase, provides strategic actions to ensure that our goals and objectives will be met. It will serve as our guide for sustained and coordinated development efforts.

We hope that this recent improvement on the poverty situation of the region will inspire and remind us to remain steadfast on our work towards achieving a matatag, maginhawa at panatag na buhay para sa lahat.

Once again, damo nga salamat ngan padayon ha pag-uswag Sinirangan Bisayas!

A pleasant morning to all of you.