Charities Operating in the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelagic country located in Southeast Asia with a population of 111 million people. Among the 111 million people, 21.6% of the population live in poverty and 75% of people in the south live in poverty. Despite the economic growth that the country has seen over the last few years, many people living in poverty are unable to experience economic growth. One can attribute poverty in the Philippines to natural disasters and violence throughout the country. With the dangers of sharing the world’s highest frequency of tropical storms, people living in poverty suffer since they cannot garner the agricultural and industrial resources necessary to help them. Charities operating in the Philippines work hard to help people living in poverty find ways to access the necessities required to live prosperous lives.

5 Charities Operating in the Philippines

  1. Cross Catholic: Cross Catholic Outreach is one of the five charities operating in the Philippines. It began its journey in 2001 and expanded into Southeast Asia in 2003. In the Philippines, the Cross Catholic Outreach works through its ministries to help people in poverty, and they do so by “sending financial support, shipping material and providing professional consultation for relief projects.” Cross Catholic has collaborated with partners like Answering the Cry of the Poor (ANCOP) and the Daughters of Wisdom to help extend its reach throughout the country. ANCOP is an extension of the Couples of Christ (CFC). Cross Catholic has helped ANCOP build hundreds of homes for the poor and helped fund social development programs since 2006. Cross Catholic work with Daughters of Wisdom in Manila and Cebu city has helped give children in poverty an opportunity to access education, health care and sanitation products for those who are unable to access or afford the services.
  2. CARE Philippines: CARE has been working in the Philippines since 1949. Since then, it has worked to alleviate poverty and combat social injustice through three leading roles: “Humanitarian Action, Promoting Lasting Change and Innovative Solutions and Multiplying Impact.” Human Action consists of saving lives, especially women and children, and the most marginalized in times of emergency. CARE Philippines’ humanitarian action also consists of “preparedness and early action, emergency response and recovery and encourages future resilience and equitable development.” Promoting Lasting Change and Innovative Solutions consists of streamlining and providing innovative solutions for sustainable development along with providing services and empowerment of women, all of which rely on understanding the drivers of poverty and social injustice.
  3. PAC Canada: PAC Canada is another charity operating in the Philippines. It began working in August 2016 alongside 600 residents of Barangays (villages) 128, 143, 144 and 145 through fostering relationships from trust and respect. PAC Canada focuses its operations on Tondo, Manila. It established its headquarters there on July 20, 2019, the same day Canada Revenue Agency listed it as a charitable organization. PAC Canada’s work focuses mainly on improving the lives of impoverished children and families after its founder, Phillippe Blanchard, sought to find ways to support them. Some of PAC’s programs include Watch Baby Grow (WBG) and Watch Toddler Blossom (WTB) Sponsorship (nutritional supplements) Programs along with Play and Catch-Up After School Programs, all of which focus on helping children.
  4. Save the Children Philippines: Save the Children Philippines started operating in the Philippines in 1981 and focused its work alongside “local communities to design sponsorship programs for kids.” In addition, the programs Save the Children created seek to develop programs that ensure that children can grow and learn in a safe environment to adulthood, which means ensuring that children get an education and mother and babies are healthy through accessible health care. Save the Children Philippines managed “to protect 16,082 children from harm, support 17,032 children in times of crisis, provide 393,164 children with a healthy start in life and support 11,492 parents to provide for their children’s basic needs.” Save the Children Philippines is one of the five charities operating in the Philippines helping to alleviate poverty.
  5. Project PEARLS: Project PEARLS started operating in 2010 and focuses on helping children and alleviating poverty. Project PEARLS’ programs revolve around education, health care, nutrition and empowerment through skills development. As part of the education initiative, its scholarship program helps more than 700 students in four communities: Tondo, Manila, Bocaue, Bulacan; Naic, Cavite and Zamboanga Sibugay. The charity also “provides breakfast to hundreds of children in Tondo, Manila. In partnership with organizations and individuals, we also bring critical medical and dental services to the communities.”

Looking Ahead

All five charities operating in the Philippines work effortlessly alongside their partners and communities by establishing programs geared towards helping those living in poverty, especially children who find access to essential services and need to lead fulfilling and meaningful lives and eventually escape poverty.

– Arijit Joshi
Photo: Flickr

Fight Against Graveyard PovertyIn Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir’s haunting short film “Tombstone Pillow,” a wealthy widow’s perspective on wealth shifts as she explores the destitute living conditions of the Philippines’ Manila cemetery communities. Despite the partially fabricated storyline, the circumstances of Manila’s graveyard living are far from fiction: the cemeteries of Manila North are home to 6,000 poverty-stricken slum-dwellers, many of whom live without access to basic services. Here is some information about graveyard poverty in the Philippines and how “Tombstone Pillow” is raising awareness.

About Graveyard Poverty

Beginning as homes in the 1950s for cemetery caretakers, the cemeteries attract Filipinos living in poverty by providing free living and often some basic income for their work in the graveyards: some receive 600 pesos ($30.94) per year to take care of the graves, and others work to prepare funerals by carving headstones or digging graves. Residents also appreciate the proximity to their lost loved ones, as explained by one cemetery-dweller to The Guardian: “I like him close. I like that when I wake up I can see him … I like that I can be the one to care for his grave.”

Ultimately, however, living conditions are far from just. In addition to the sub-poverty level income many residents earn, and the lack of access to basic services including “sanitation, electricity, and clean water,” police often raid the cemeteries in anti-drug missions, shooting and killing civilians within the premises. Despite this injustice, a lack of money prevents residents from investigating the shootings.

How “Tombstone Pillow” is Fighting Graveyard Poverty

It was a chilling visit to these cemeteries in the Philippines that inspired filmmaking couple Bayou Bennett and Daniel Lir to create “Tombstone Pillow.” In fact, the name of the film draws directly from Bennett’s observation that residents used tombstones as pillows. On her LinkedIn, Bennett explains, “The reality of life in the cemetery shocked us so much, we couldn’t get the world and imagery out of our minds.” Already committed to creating “socially conscious”  media, Bennett and Lir translated the “emotions, world and characters” into the film to create a vivid tale of injustice and inequality.

In “Tombstone Pillow,” a wealthy widow visits her deceased husband at Manila North Cemetery in the midst of a raid on the community. Throughout the film, she obtains a sense of compassion for the poverty of the grave-dwellers, as well as an understanding of the socioeconomic inequality plaguing her city. The film not only raises awareness regarding the destitution plaguing the 6,000 Filipino graveyard dwellers but advocates for concrete reform on behalf of the Philippine government. At present, Bennett and Lir’s goal with the film is to pave the way for reforms to the living conditions within these cemeteries via relocation to more sustainable living spaces. To accomplish this, the couple hopes to present the film to the mayor of Manila.

The Film’s Success So Far

At present, “Tombstone Pillow” has acquired 33 awards and 43 nominations globally, including Best Inspirational Film at the Venice Film Awards, Hollywood Film Awards and NY Movie Awards. “Human beings deserve better, and filmmaking is the most powerful voice we know which has allowed us to help create change and awareness to this problem,” said Bennett to Samera Entertainment.

– Alisa Gulyansky 
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in the PhilippinesAlongside malaria and HIV, tuberculosis (TB) is one of the main communicable diseases wreaking havoc on the lives of vulnerable populations in developing countries. In the Philippines, the situation is particularly challenging – the WHO estimates that in 2019, up to 1 million Filipinos had active TB, the third highest prevalence in the world. Around 70 people die in the country every day from this completely curable disease.

Solutions are not far from reach, but understanding the multifaceted reasons why TB persists in the Philippines is key to implementing effective measures to combat the spread of the disease.

Tuberculosis: An Overview

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that typically attacks the lungs, resulting in coughing, chest pain, fatigue and fever symptoms. It is spread through airborne droplets released through coughing, sneezing and even speaking, making it highly transmissible. As with any bacterial disease, those with weakened immune systems are most at risk of severe illness or death. People who suffer from malnutrition or who already have conditions like HIV or diabetes are particularly vulnerable.

With a rapidly growing HIV epidemic and the World Food Programme reporting that 64% of its population is “chronically food insecure,” it is not surprising that TB is so prevalent in the Philippines.

Links to Poverty

The organization Health Poverty Action puts it simply: “Poverty and TB are closely linked.” The spread of tuberculosis in the Philippines is closely associated with the living conditions of its sufferers – the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS) states that TB is particularly common among the urban poor, who often have inadequate access to health care.

A report from the Philippine Institute for Development Studies also cites overcrowded living conditions as a factor that exacerbates the spread of TB among the urban poor.

Another issue standing in the way of eradicating TB is the financial barriers to treatment. A 2022 study published in ‘Global Health’ surveyed Filipinos living in a high-TB area and found that many cited “indirect expenses,” like the cost of transportation, as a factor that would incite them to avoid seeking care.

As drug-resistant TB becomes an ever-growing problem, many Filipinos are forced to travel to multiple different hospitals and health facilities to collect different prescriptions, at significant personal cost. This is because drug-resistant TB requires sufferers to cycle between different drugs in order to treat the disease. This type of treatment is expensive, especially since health services and the National Tuberculosis Program are “crucially underfunded,” according to researchers from the University of the Philippines.

The ‘Global Health’ study also noted the risk of unemployment as an important barrier to treatment – many respondents of the survey feared that they would be forced to take leave from their jobs if it was revealed that they were infectious, or that they would be unable to work due to side effects from treatment. In short, many simply could not afford to not work.

Fighting For Change

Although the Filipino government has made efforts to mitigate the cost to low-income households of TB treatment with its aforementioned National Tuberculosis Program, a 2022 study found that 42% of households with TB were still suffering “catastrophic costs” associated with the disease.

However, there have been some moderate steps forward. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Global Fund and the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) expanded an existing initiative that employed motorcycle riders to transport specimens from patients’ homes to hospitals for evaluation – they can now transport medication from health care facilities to patients’ homes, alleviating the financial burden of transportation for TB patients.

In addition, in 2020, the Filipino Department of Health and the WHO Country Office in the Philippines created a “package of digital solutions,” aiming to collect more data and facilitate the reporting of TB cases, an area that still needs work. The applications do not require an internet connection and are able to track patient progress, allowing health care providers and patients easier access to information about TB treatment. This way, patients do not need to travel to the hospital just to remain informed about their treatment plans.

Looking Ahead

Eradicating tuberculosis in the Philippines is an achievable goal, but it will take a lot of time, effort and funding. Poverty is a key driver of communicable diseases, and the case of tuberculosis in the Philippines exemplifies this fact. A 2018 study found that eradicating global poverty would result in a 33% reduction in tuberculosis cases. Working towards this goal will be instrumental in saving lives, increasing productivity and eliminating tuberculosis in the Philippines for good.

– Abbi Powell
Photo: Flickr

Children’s Mental Health in the Philippines
In the Philippines, in 2018, children younger than 18 accounted for about 40% of the population, according to UNICEF data. The Philippine Development Plan for 2017-2023 points out that children stand “among the most vulnerable population groups in society.” Furthermore, the National Statistics Office (NSO) highlights that “mental health illnesses rank as the third most common form of morbidity among Filipinos.” The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated mental health issues, making it crucial to address children’s mental health in the Philippines.

Overview of Children’s Mental Health in the Philippines

A 2015 Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) highlights that approximately 17% of Filipino students aged 13 to 17 had attempted suicide once a year at minimum. This data indicates that mental issues among the youth have been an issue even before the pandemic. Notably, from March 2020 to May 2020, the Filipino government documented a “260% increase in online child abuse reports,” including instances of sexual exploitation, which has a direct impact on mental well-being.

Impact of COVID-19

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Philippines’ “militaristic approach” to lockdowns also affected children’s mental health due to the fear of violence under the military presence in communities, according to a study by Grace Zurielle C. Malolos and others.

This strict confinement limited physical activities and social interaction among adolescents, aggravating the stability of children’s mental health in the Philippines. In April 2020, when the Philippines implemented a total lockdown, a survey of 200 children aged 6-12 years old in both public and private schools in Luzon, Philippines, showed that the participants expressed feelings of sadness, fear, anger and disappointment, among other emotions. The study also found that parents’ views regarding the lockdown had a major impact on children’s mental health in the Philippines.

Impact of Extreme Weather

Because of its geographic location, the Philippines faces at least 20 typhoons annually. The Philippines faced 22 tropical typhoons in the year 2020 alone, causing numerous casualties. Overall, extreme weather patterns in the Philippines have had both direct and indirect impacts on the mental health conditions of Filipino children due to the destruction of schools and homes and increased feelings of stress and anxiety, among other impacts.

There is also the indirect impact of the psychological phenomenon known as “climate anxiety” or “eco-anxiety.” A 2021 Current Psychology article highlights that the threat of extreme weather patterns causes an increase in family stress, suicide ideation and amplification of past trauma. This aspect of children’s mental health in the Philippines often goes overlooked.

Efforts to Improve Children’s Mental Health in the Philippines

In 2021, the USAID RenewHealth Project collaborated with the Philippine Department of Health (DOH) to launch the first mobile application to improve mental health in the Philippines. This mobile application, called the Lusog-Isip app, provides access to self-care resources and self-help services for mental health needs. This includes workbooks, activities, journals, audio and more.

A pilot test of the app reveals that users experienced “improved well-being and the ability to use certain coping strategies such as cognitive reappraisal and emotional expression.” In the event that a user requires mental health resources that the app cannot provide, the app directs the user to these resources. The app will undergo further refining to ensure that it is most beneficial to the most vulnerable groups, such as young people.

With a commitment to serving the most vulnerable populations, the government can improve children’s mental health in the Philippines.

– Youngwook Chun
Photo: Flickr

Filipino Remittance
Each year, millions of global emigrants from the Philippines send billions of dollars in aid back home. Even in 2020 – a year of notable economic turmoil, Filipinos leveraged low fees and favorable currency exchanges, sending nearly $35 billion in remittances. Currently, the Philippines is ranked fourth in the world by money received from overseas, just behind India, China and Mexico. Filipino remittance is a large boon for many facing poverty in the Philippines. Throughout the pandemic, more than 2 million Filipinos fell into poverty, raising the poverty rate to 18.1%. During this period, severe job loss occurred, along with a sharp decline in tourism and a rapid rise in inflation. Even the number of workers going overseas decreased, placing more pressure on Filipinos already established and working around the globe.

Now, Filipinos continue to look to family living outside of the Philippines for support as the country attempts to recover from the pandemic.

A Brief History of Remittances in the Philippines

Though the roots of Filipino labor migration go back to the 17th century, the Filipino government began supporting the practice in the 1970s. At that time, rising oil prices were creating economic problems in the Philippines. However, the oil-rich Gulf countries needed workers to build infrastructure. The Philippine government established an overseas workers program with these countries to make use of the nation’s excess laborers.

During this period, it was men working in construction that made up the majority of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). However, women soon took the lead. They rose to prominence as the demand for teachers, nurses, domestic workers and entertainers increased.

OFWs commonly send money from their paychecks back home to family, becoming a significant part of the Philippine economy. The World Bank has noted that remittance started at 1.5% of the nation’s GDP in 1977 and has risen since, peaking at 12.8% in 2005. In response to the growth of Filipino remittance, some Philippine businesses, like LBC Express, opened storefronts around the world to help OFWs send money and goods directly back home.

In recent years, the Philippine government has decreased programs encouraging citizens to work outside of the country. The government said it wants the decision to work abroad to be a choice instead of a necessity. Regardless, Filipino remittance remains high.

Filipino Remittance in the Modern Day

Remittance remains a strong part of the Philippine economy — most recently making up 9.6% of the nation’s GDP in 2020. However, the geographic concentration of workers sending money home has shifted to the West. In 2020, Filipinos living in the United States sent the most money back to the Philippines. Remittances from workers in the Gulf countries dropped by as much as 36% from their 2015 peak.

Yen Osborne, a moderator of the Facebook group “Filipino Community in Illinois,” spoke with The Borgen Project about her thoughts on remittance and its role within her online community. “It’s a great benefit to the families attending their financial needs,” Osborne said. According to her, it is normal for Filipinos to send a monthly allowance to their families living in the Philippines using a variety of online services and bank-to-bank transfers.

Osborne also raised concerns about the negative effects of people in the Philippines becoming reliant on remittances. “The bad side is people are getting lazy knowing they have a family member who sends them monthly [money],” Osborne said. At the same time, with exception of the pandemic, the Philippines’ economic growth has risen. According to the World Bank, the Philippines’ average economic growth increased to 6.4% in 2019, while foreign remittance in the country’s GDP grew to 9.3%.

Osborne concluded that remittance is ultimately a positive part of Filipino life. For her, it’s a part of “Filipino culture where we help our families.”

–  Ryan Morton
Photo: Flickr

Poverty In The Philippines
The pandemic had a negative impact on every country in the world. From economic depression to increased poverty, conditions in rich and poor countries declined. One of the countries that the pandemic hit hardest was the Philippines. The pandemic pushed more than 2.3 million Filipinos under the poverty line. By 2021, poverty in the Philippines was above 18%, well overshooting the government target of 15.5%. The Philippines is also $242 billion in debt, amounting to nearly 64% of its GDP. This 16-year high is partly due to the pandemic, as the financial stress it caused led to the government borrowing more. To top it all off, inflation is rising at the highest rate since 2018, further exacerbating the country’s economic struggle. Luckily, the new president of the Philippines has a plan to reduce the poverty rate in the Philippines by half.

The Newly Inaugurated President’s Plan

Despite the country’s increasing economic disparity, the newly inaugurated President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. proposed a record budget to tackle poverty, health care and social welfare in 2023. For him, boosting the economy and reducing poverty in the Philippines is supposedly at the forefront of his agenda. He recently proposed a 2023 budget of $94 billion (5.29 trillion pesos) – a significant increase from the previous year’s budget. This budget aims at lifting millions of people out of poverty and significantly boosting economic growth. He also pledged to cut the poverty rate in half, aiming for 9% by the end of his term in 2028.

Furthermore, Marcos intends to reduce the Philippine debt to less than 60% of its GDP. He also plans to initiate the nation’s own Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Establishing a CDC is a step that makes vaccines more available, lowers the cost of medicine and expands health care accessibility in rural areas that lack it.

A Tarnished Family Legacy

While Marcos’ budget sounds promising for tackling the poverty rate in the Philippines and promoting economic growth, his presidency carries a heavily tarnished past. Marcos Jr. is the son of late former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who served as the 10th Philippine president for 21 years. Controversy, corruption and even dictatorship marred the Marcos Sr. presidency. In 1972, Marcos Sr. put the country under martial law, which lasted for nine years. During that time, numerous human rights violations occurred, followed by economic collapse and rising inflation.

By the end of his rule, the poverty rate in the Philippines was at an all-time high, having risen from 42% to 59%. It is well documented that Marcos Sr.’s political opponents and critics were assassinated or tortured and that the Muslim minority was heavily silenced and oppressed. In addition, he and his wife Imelda received accusations of plundering around $10 billion, much of which was never recovered. Despite the numerous charges of racketeering, graft and corruption, Imelda Marcos ended up serving as a congresswoman for nine years. Her daughter Imee currently serves as a senator. Additionally, on May 25, 2022, her son Marcos Jr. officially became the 17th President of the Philippines.

Mixed Feelings

Some say that the Philippines is heading into another era of corruption and dictatorship. Others say that Marcos Jr. is fighting hard to escape his father’s shadow. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain; this struggling Asian country requires strong leadership and sound judgment if it is to recover from its current economic crisis.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Fidel Ramos
Fidel Ramos, a former President of the Philippines who ousted a long-standing dictator, died on July 31, 2022 at the age of 94. Ramos served as a general in the Korean and Vietnam wars and played a major role in turning the Philippines into a pro-democratic country. His accomplishments include uplifting millions of Filipinos and eliminating the Philippines’ historic title as ‘the sick man of Asia.’ Press Trixie Cruz-Angeles told the LA Times that “He leaves behind a colorful legacy and a secure place in history for his participation in the great changes of our country, both as a military officer and chief executive.” Here is some information about Fidel Ramos’ legacy including his economic and social reforms.

Democracy Under Fidel Ramos

The dictatorship and policies under Ferdinand Marcos were crippling for many Filipinos and the country’s economy. Although the unemployment rate fell from 7.1% to 3.9% during the early years of Marcos’ presidency, unemployment rapidly rose again in the mid-1970s when it reached 7.9%. By 1985, two-thirds of the population was poor and at least half, or 27 million Filipinos, lived in extreme poverty.

During Marcos’ administration, Ramos was a key figure, serving as a PC chief. However, in February 1986, Ramos resigned from his post and supported the rebellion, People Power Revolution, after a failed coup. The rebellion ushered in a radical transformation in the Philippines and became a symbol against authoritarian regimes worldwide.

When Aquino rose to the presidency, Ramos was able to prevent her from attempting violent coups. In 1992, the people of the Philippines elected Fidel Ramos as President. His administration successfully implemented many reforms to reduce poverty and bolster the Philippines’ economy.

Economic Reforms Under Fidel Ramos

To combat the aftermath effects of Marcos’ dictatorship, Ramos embraced a “comprehensive reform strategy” to open up the economy, reduce macroeconomic imbalances and address structural rigidities. The IMF has supported this program since 1994 and made considerable progress in boosting the Philippines’ economy.

The program accelerated privatization, recapitalized the central bank and opened numerous sectors to new competition such as banking, telecommunication and the oil sector. The limits on foreign participation loosened in many sectors and the program resulted in the removal of import restrictions. The average import tariff in 2000 was 10%, which was one-third of that in the mid-1980s.

However, powerful interest groups that formed under Marcos’ regime of heavy regulation of the economy and income inequality resisted reforms that would even the playing field. Despite this, Ramos was able to reduce inequalities and spur growth. He cracked down on monopolies in various sectors and privatized some government-owned corporations to boost the annual growth to 5%.

Social Reforms Under Fidel Ramos

During Ramos’ administration, the Philippines saw for the first time emergence of massive, coordinated, nationwide poverty reduction programs. Ramos’ Social Reform Agenda (SRA) integrated the delivery of social services, protection and reforms to the poorest provinces in the Philippines where people could not meet their basic needs. Many heralded this program as the most consultative, reform-oriented and well-targeted poverty platform in the history of the Philippines.

The SRA had clear, defined targets and brought together many NGOs, local agencies and other stakeholders during the development, planning and execution process as they monitored stages of poverty intervention.

Through the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, the 10 most unmet necessities in the community and sector determined the social services. To accommodate the needs of diverse impoverished communities such as the urban poor, farmers and indigenous peoples, 33 indicators underwent implementation that includes basic survival needs, security and capability. These indicators also helped track progress in poverty. The result of these programs proved to be a success as family poverty incidence fell from 39.9% in 1991 to 31.8% in 1997.

Fidel Ramos’ Legacy

Although Fidel Ramos’ presidency ended in 1998, his policies, legislations and reforms continue to be impactful in the Philippines today. Fidel Ramos’ legacy includes the creation of anti-poverty infrastructure in government bureaucracy. The Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act of 1997 adopted the SRA into the Commission’s mandated agenda. In governmental agencies like the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), there was the widespread adoption of the Minimum Basic Needs Survey, poverty information gathering and resource gathering. The data gathered from these instruments continue to be useful today.

Moreover, the Gender and Development Budget Policy, which mandated the allocation of a minimum of 5% of the government’s budget to Gender and Development programs aiding women, passed in 1992. The Philippines is continuing to incorporate this policy annually and revisions have ensured the policy’s effectiveness.

– Samyukta Gaddam
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in the PhilippinesThe Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in the Philippines, known as the 4Ps, is a conditional cash transfer program developed by the World Bank and the government of the Philippines in 2007. The 4P’s main objective is to provide financial assistance to the impoverished to “improve the health, nutrition and the education of children aged 0-18.” Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the poverty rate in the Philippines rose to 23.7% in the first six months of 2021, meaning at least 3.9 million Filipinos endured poverty. To combat the high poverty rate and a lack of social safety net, the 4Ps program helps impoverished households to break cycles of poverty.

Beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program

The program specifies certain criteria for eligibility. The beneficiaries must live in the poorest municipalities, in accordance with the 2003 Small Area Estimates of the National Statistical Coordination Board. In addition, a household must be living at or below the “provincial poverty threshold.” The household must also have children between the ages of 0 and 18 years old. Households with pregnant women are also eligible. In 2022, the 4Ps program assists “more than 800,000 families classified as poor and near-poor based on the Standardized Targeting System and the poverty threshold issued by the Philippine Statistics Authority.” Since 2008, the 4Ps program has served more than 5 million impoverished households.

The beneficiaries are able to receive two types of grants, including a health grant of 500 per household per month and an education grant of  300 per child per month for 10 months. Mikee Romero, one of the writers of the law institutionalizing 4Ps, told the Philippines News Agency in September 2020 that the program’s 169.3 billion budget for 2021 “also includes  41 billion “for social protection programs like medical, transportation and burial assistance” and 4.3 billion “for disaster response, such as the provision of relief goods.”

Effectiveness of 4Ps

The implementation of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in the Philippines has increased the utilization of health and education services. Children face lower risks of enduring poverty in adulthood as the program aims to break intergenerational cycles of poverty through the provision of resources and services necessary for growth and development.

The 4Ps program has helped to increase school attendance rates as it offers financial assistance for education and has a strict rule of “85% attendance a month” for child beneficiaries of the program.

A Herald Express article published in August 2018 says, “The 4Ps program has smoothly bridged the gap from poverty to an improved living condition among its beneficiaries.” The article also highlights that the 4Ps “changed the behavior of learners and their attitude toward learning” and helped improve the academic performance of generally low-performing learners.

In addition, 4Ps offers educational seminars with topics ranging from financial management to the importance of women in society and works with Sustainable Livelihoods Programs (SLP) to help families develop income-generating activities to build a better future.  The 4Ps program strengthens labor skills and opens up economic opportunities for the impoverished in the Philippines. The program provides microfinance services and training to those who engage in the SLP. Through skill training, beneficiaries are more likely to increase productivity and rise out of poverty.

A Look Ahead

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in the Philippines helps break the poverty cycle. The program also increases the ability of households to provide for their children and family needs. Overall, the 4Ps model looks to improve quality of life by providing the impoverished with the resources, services and skills to thrive.

Jiaying Guo
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Health in the Philippines
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic up until April 2022, more than 3.6 million people living in the Philippines have contracted the virus. With nearly 60,000 of those cases resulting in fatalities, health in the Philippines must be a priority. Community Health Worker groups, specifically Barangay Health Workers (BHW) and Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS), are working to improve the health of those living in the Philippines.

Health Care in the Philippines

In February 2019, the Philippine government passed the Universal Health Care Act Republic Act into law. This act sought to improve health care for Filipino citizens by making these services more affordable, especially for those without medical insurance. Through the Universal Care Act Republic Act, all Filipinos can enroll in the National Health Insurance Program to allow health insurance coverage for all. To finance this, the Philippine government extended its health care expenditure to almost 6% of its total GDP.

Despite these efforts, access to health care is not equal for all. It is challenging for rural and low-income areas to receive the same treatment as those living in upper-class communities. Private and more expensive medical facilities where those of higher-income regions receive treatment are often better equipped than public hospitals. Health care for all must be a priority in the Philippines, especially after the nation’s polio outbreak in September 2019. Community health workers like BHW and BNS are essential to the nation during outbreaks and epidemics. These workers provide health information and primary care to those in more vulnerable areas.

Barangay Health Workers

Barangay Health Workers (BHW) consist of trained volunteers within the community who provide information regarding overall health. They also offer first aid, maternal and child health care, environmental health care and connect patients to health care centers.

BHW has been present in the Philippines for about 40 years and they receive government support. In 1995, Philippine Congress passed the BHW Benefits and Incentives Act, which encouraged the group “to self-organize, to strengthen and systematize [its] services to communities and to create a forum for sharing experiences and recommending policies and guidelines.” The act also required the government to provide benefits to BHWs, such as “scholarships for their children” and an allowance.

BHWs play a significant role in improving health in the Philippines. In 2014, after Typhoon Haiyan ravished island barangays, Direct Relief financed a training program for 50 BHWs to educate them on recognizing and treating illnesses that affect children. To this end, the health workers participated in the Community Integrated Management of Childhood Illness training program. The module emphasized “the 12 key childhood illnesses danger signs” in order to avert preventable child deaths.

BHWs also educate and encourage citizens to receive immunizations against illnesses such as polio to contain the spread. In 2016, the Philippines had 216,941 BHWs in the nation.

Barangay Nutrition Scholars

Like BHWs, Barangay Nutrition Scholars (BNS) promote and educate on proper health in the Philippines. However, their primary focus gears toward improving nutrition. In 2011, 25% of Filipino “women of reproductive age” suffered from anemia. For children younger than five-years-old, this statistic reached almost 35% in that same year.

BNS is essential to combating malnutrition in the Philippines. The group conducts growth monitoring for clients, provides nutrition education and collaborates with local organizations that encourage citizens to achieve sustainable nutrition by gardening and raising livestock.

BNS members must complete training that involves a 20-day practicum where trainees learn how to weigh young children and measure their heights to ensure that children are receiving proper nutrition at home. In addition to monitoring children’s health, BNS also provide classes for parents who may be unaware of how important nutrition is for their children’s development. These classes educate on balanced diets and how to prevent malnutrition. By July 2020, 49,779 BNS members had worked across 39,942 barangays in the Philippines.

Looking Ahead

Groups like BHW and BNS are crucial for ensuring proper health in the Philippines. Volunteers are making a significant difference within their communities. The more healthy people there are, the more contributions that can go towards the Filipino workforce, improving the economy and quality of life in the nation overall.

– Megan Quinn
Photo: Flickr

Plastic Pollution in the Philippines
Although plastic consumption is higher in more developed countries like the United States, a 2021 report from Our World in Data states that roughly a third of all plastics in the ocean comes from the Philippines. Plastic floods the Philippines’ beaches and rivers. Although people might associate this level of litter with overconsumption, plastic pollution in the Philippines is both the result and cause of poverty.

How Plastic Links to Poverty

Plastic and global poverty interlink in several ways. For one, the prevalence of plastic pollution and other waste in less developed countries is a direct consequence of the global waste trade as more developed countries “export” their waste to less developed countries that lack the means to properly recycle or otherwise dispose of it. The lack of sufficient waste management infrastructure in less developed countries hinders proper plastic disposal as mismanaged plastics move from population hubs into rivers and coastal ecosystems.

In the Philippines, discarding rather than recycling plastics leads to a loss of revenue of more than $890 million annually, which equates to “78% of the material value of the key plastic resins.” Plastic pollution also worsens conditions for the world’s impoverished. Consumption, inhalation and any other exposure to additives in most plastic can cause birth defects, disturb hormonal functions or lead to cancer, among other detrimental impacts.

Plastic pollution in the Philippines also threatens local economies, which are reliant on fishing, shipping and tourism. This pollution notably decreases overall biodiversity, interferes with shipping equipment and mars otherwise beautiful beaches and rivers.

NGOs Tackling Plastic Pollution in the Philippines

Despite the dire situation, several organizations are taking a stand against plastic pollution in the Philippines. These include the Plastic Bank, The Plastic Flamingo and the Blastik Project.

  1. The Plastic Bank. This international organization promotes ethical recycling systems along coastlines and provides additional sources of revenue for those living in poverty. As of Jan. 26, 2022, the Plastic Bank recovered 41.64 kilograms of plastic, the equivalent of 91.8 pounds or roughly “2 billion single-use plastic bottles.” The organization allows individuals to collect plastic waste in exchange for money, basic family necessities and access to social and training programs. A branch of the Plastic Bank centered in the Philippines has stated on Facebook that people from local communities can collect plastic waste in exchange “for bonuses that help to provide basic family necessities like groceries, school supplies for their children, digital connectivity, and more.” By equipping individuals with these opportunities, the Plastic Bank gives them the tools necessary for greater economic mobility.
  2. The Plastic Flamingo. This social enterprise spreads awareness of plastic pollution through webinars and educational campaigns and offers public drop-off points for plastic disposal. However, it primarily focuses on converting plastic waste into building materials. People throughout Manila can get rid of their plastic waste at collection sites for the organization to collect and recycle into “Eco-lumbers.” Through its creation of Eco-lumbers and its participation in many construction projects, The Plastic Flamingo transforms a source of economic concern into a valuable, sustainable resource that people could use as humanitarian housing material alternatives. In 2021, the group notably made its first prototype of an “Eco-shelter” made entirely out of recycled products.
  3. The Blastik Project. Similar to the Plastic Bank, the Blastik Project equips farmers to reduce plastic pollution in the Philippines and create a more circular economy. The project also educates local communities on the potential economic benefits of recycling. The organization also offers to teach Filipinos how to recycle plastic bottles and caps into home decor, wallets, tiles and more. This supplemental income could make a significant difference, especially for those struggling with poverty. People also use plastics as bottle planters in the organization’s farms, which provides the project’s contributors with organic food. As of November 2021, the Blastik Project recycled more than 17 tons of plastic waste.

Looking Ahead

Ultimately, pollution and poverty intertwine in a self-feeding cycle. It would be impossible to tackle one without tackling the other, especially because of the global waste trade, which forces less developed countries to bear the consequences of overconsumption in wealthier nations. However, a greater shift to recycling and sustainable development could turn the tide on plastic pollution in the Philippines.

Lauren Sung
Photo: Flickr