Poverty in the PhilippinesAs of 2015, 22 million Filipinos are still living in the depths of poverty. That equates to one-fifth of the population. Poverty presents itself in a vicious cycle affecting mainly the uneducated population who tend to live in large family units. These family units usually have only one head of the household who provides income for the entire family.

The Filipino government is actively trying to speed up its poverty reduction plan. Their long-term goal is to be able to provide more economic prospects, which in turn would help many of their citizens earn a higher and more stable income. A report by the World Bank shows how this economic growth helped decline the rate of poverty. Poverty in the Philippines dropped by 26.6 percent in 2006 to 21.6 percent in 2015.

Key Programs to Help Reduce Poverty in the Philippines

Some factors that resulted in the drop in poverty are the expansion of jobs outside the agriculture sector, government transfers and getting qualified Filipinos to help through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This particular program which is a government cash-handout project has helped reduce poverty by 25 percent.

Most of the Philippines are hit with massive typhoons and still have an armed conflict. These scenarios are a real struggle to the everyday worker who, even after a long day, still goes back home poor. Due to these factors, many citizens end up leaving behind farm work and go find work in manufacturing hubs in the urban areas of the country. These jobs outside the agricultural dome have accounted for two-thirds of the progress in reducing poverty in the Philippines.

One of the key strategies to help bring down poverty in the Philippines is providing birth control to the poor. In a radical move for the heavily populated Catholic country, the President made readily available birth control to nearly 6 million women who cannot afford it.

Providing birth control is a powerful tool for families who now have full control over family planning. The hope is by giving the women and family units more control, they will have fewer children. This, in turn, will mean that families can provide more responsibly.  This new policy will help the government reach its goal of reducing poverty by 13 percent by 2022.

The current Filipino population is at 104 million and continues to rise at an alarming rate of 1.7 percent each year. This new law will enable families to control how many children they want. It will also hopefully take down the population rate to 1.4 percent each year once the law is fully executed.

Government Hopeful About Achieving its Aim

Even though the Philippines have worked hard in the past to reduce their poverty and keep up with their neighbors China, Vietnam and Indonesia, they still have a long way to go. Marak K. Warwick of The World Bank believes that with a solid foundation there is a reason to be optimistic that the Philippines can achieve their goal.

The goal for the Philippine government is to create more jobs, improve productivity, invest in health and nutrition while focusing on reducing poverty. If the government is able to execute its plans successfully, it is capable of reducing poverty in the Philippines by 13 to 15 percent by 2022.

-Jennifer O’Brien
Photo: Flickr

Why Typhoon Mangkhut Hit Poor People the Hardest in the PhilippinesOn September 15, the Philippines was struck by a massive typhoon. Winds were blowing at 210 km/h, gusting up to 285 km/h. The most recent death toll was 81 with dozens still missing. The World Meteorological Organization has named the storm the “strongest tropical cyclone the world has faced this year.” As with most other natural disasters, Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines hit the poorest populations the hardest.

Landslides

Deadly landslides occurred as a result of overflowing rivers. One of the most disastrous was in Itogen, a remote northern mining town. Emergency workers used shovels and their bare hands to recover the bodies of forty people from the debris. Of the victims, almost all are impoverished gold miners and their family members. Officers in the area told people to find safe shelter prior to the typhoon, but many stayed behind to work the tunnels where they perished.

In Naga, Cebu, landslides wiped out 30 homes in two rural villages, killing 18 people while 64 others are still missing. At least seven of the villagers were rescued after sending text messages calling for help. Too many farmers did not leave quickly enough because they were trying to harvest their crops before the storm or landslides destroyed them.

Authorities say that the typhoon was particularly damaging in the central northern mountainous Cordillera region (CAR), which is composed of the provinces of Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Mountain Province and the cities of Baguio and Tabuk. Populations that live in these mountains are heavily indigenous and predominantly poor, with 17.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line. Most farmers who live there grow rice, and their margin of income is very thin at best.

According to an article in First Point: “Poverty has forced many to live on or near volcanoes, steep mountains and storm-vulnerable coasts, often leading to disasters.” So, it is the poorest populations that bear the brunt of the destruction.

Massive Flooding

The flash flooding that has resulted from Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines has been disastrous for rural farmers. Mangkhut swamped farm fields in the north, where much of the agriculture is located. Unfortunately, the typhoon came a month after severe monsoon rains that had already made these provinces vulnerable to disaster. Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol predicts a total of 1.5 million farmers and over 100,000 fishing communities will be impacted by the typhoon.

The flooding was so bad that rice fields in Iguig could be mistaken for the town’s river. Oxfam’s April Bulanadi said of the disaster: “While I was able to see some farmers desperately harvesting crops the day before the storm hit, it was clear many were not able to do so. This is heartbreaking because it was supposed to be harvest season next month. This will have devastating impacts on small farmers, many of whom are still recovering from Typhoon Haima in 2016.” Some farmers lost their lives in the floods, but those who left in time will still lose their income due to lost and damaged crops.

The Aftermath of the Typhoon

The only current solution is to support the recovery of the victims of Typhoon Mangkhut. Clean water and materials needed to build shelters for those who have lost their homes are being sent by organizations such as Oxfam. Getting through to the villages has been problematic since the airport was also hit by the typhoon.

Maria Rosario Felizco, Oxfam Philippines Country Director, said that “we must also anticipate that the survivors of Typhoon Mangkhut, especially small fishers and farmers who have lost their source of income, will need support far beyond the first few days of this response.” However, aid is not the only thing that the country needs. Changes also need to be made in order to prevent disasters like this from completely destroying the livelihoods of poor farmers.

Typhoon Mangkhut in the Philippines was tragic. For those living in poverty, the storm directly posed a threat to their lives, work and homes all at once. The typhoon was particularly detrimental to the country’s poorest citizens because of their location and the devastating loss they must now endure due to destroyed crops.

Evann Orleck-Jetter
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living conditions in the PhilippinesThe Philippines is a country that is home to over 100 million people, all of which reside in more than 7,017 country’s islands.

As of late 2015, it was estimated that 21.6 percent of the population in the Philippines lives in poverty. This percentage has been reduced from 26.6 percent back in 2006, and many other changes have been made to improve the living conditions in the country. Other goals are also set to reduce the poverty number further. In the text below, these goals and changes are described.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in the Philippines

  1. In the Philippines, bottom 10 percent of the population survive on the annual income of $1,641. The average annual income of Filipino families is about $5,000 a year and these families spent a little over $4,000 on needed expenses in a year. That is nearly three times the annual income of the poor families.
  2. Those with more family members are more at risk of poverty in the Philippines. They have to make more money to survive in a nation that is flooded with inflation, lacks income equality among different sectors and lacks jobs in general. An estimated four out of 10 people that are poor have jobs but they are usually paid less due to the lack of a proper education.
  3. Being a nation that consists of islands surrounded by water, the Philippines is always at risk for environmental threats and natural disasters. The country is prone to tropical storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, flooding and volcanic eruptions. Luckily, government officials have the help of USAID and different nongovernmental organizations that aid the country in efforts to reduce the impact of these disasters.
  4. In some areas, only about 30 percent of children complete their education. This can be mostly credited to a lack of financial funds in the household. Some children have to drop out of school to help the family financially by working in menial labor jobs. This prevents them from securing a higher paying job in the future.
  5. The country is currently going through a record high inflation crisis that is greatly affecting the cost of food. The Philippines has an inflation rate of 6.4 percent, the highest in 90 years as noted by Reuters. This inflation has caused the cost of food prices to rise by 8.5 percent. As an example, in order to afford 25 kilos of the cheapest rice, families must secure $60 of their monthly household budgets.
  6. The Philippines is one country that utilizes child laborers for some of its industries. While the Philippines hasn’t outlawed the use of child labor, it has taken moderate steps to ensure the safety of child workers in certain fields and completely abolishing the use of child labor in others. In 2017, the government made crucial changes to the employment and working guidelines of children in the agriculture sector.
  7. There is a large crisis on the island of Mindanao, one of the three largest islands of the country, where two feuding groups of people have left the island in complete disarray. The battles between them left communities damages and displaced many people that left the war-torn area or have had their homes destroyed. The effects have caused the island to become one of the most poverty-ridden areas in the Philippines.
  8. Those facing poverty conditions in the Philippines sometimes have no access to electricity, water and proper sanitation facilities, just a few of the basic necessities human beings need. They are also expected to have less access to things like health care and education, which plays a dominant role in one’s ability to get out of the life of poverty. Lack of education is often a large determinant in a household’s financial instability.
  9. The country has strict laws involving the incarceration of children. With the rising cost of food and the number of children suffering from malnourishment, many are turning to a life of drug-related crimes to make ends meet. These children are often caught and punished severely at the hands of the Philippines’ criminal justice system. Children often go through different forms of torture and endure lack of food and adequate accommodations.
  10. The government is implementing a long-term solution to tackle the poverty conditions people are facing. The plan is set to reduce poverty to at least 15 percent by the year 2022. The strategy is set to focus on creating new and higher-paying jobs, prioritize health care and help the poverty situation on Mindanao to open up valuable resources.

Poverty-reducing efforts have been made by the government to decrease the number of those that suffer from poverty in the Philippines.

In order to ensure the end to the vicious cycle, the country needs to consider education reform to better educate the youth of the country and keep them out of the corrections system.

They will also need to put an end to the feud in Mindanao if they have any hope in securing the funds to turn their poverty reduction dreams into a reality.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr

Agricultural Development in the PhilippinesSoutheastern Asian country of the Philippines faces many problems in the agricultural sector. This sector employs around 37 percent of people in the country, being a major source of income for many households.

Yet, this sector’s share in the country’s GDP has gone down over the years, showing a decline. The Philippines government is also decreasing funding on agriculture. Starting in 2011, agriculture only makes up about 4 percent of the national budget. This makes agricultural development in the Philippines questionable.

To make matters worse, the Philippines is notoriously vulnerable to natural disasters, facing around 20 typhoons each year. For farmers, one typhoon or tropical storm could be enough to wipe out the entire crop. Starting over with the work can be expensive and time-consuming. For example, coconut farmers need up to 10 years for their crops to grow. The lack of financial support coupled with frequent natural disasters leaves farmers in a compromising state.

As a result, 57 percent of agricultural households are impoverished. In comparison, non-agricultural households are three times less impoverished. This rate is even worse in agricultural-dependant areas, and reach up to 74 percent in Central Visayas.

Government’s Role in Agricultural Development in the Philippines

For these farmers, high poverty rates can be attributed to underemployment. Almost 70 percent of underemployed Filipinos work in agriculture, forestry or fishery. While many farmers and agricultural workers are searching for employment, the Government of the Philippines seems to be moving away from reliance on local farmers, turning to imports instead.

In 2016, the Philippines was the biggest rice importer in the world, with close to 2.45 million tons of imported rice. The lowered funding and employment of Filipino farmers put more than 12 million people who work in the agricultural sector at risk. Evidently, more support needs to be given to farmers in order to reduce poverty. Consequently, many poverty-fighting organizations target agricultural development in the Philippines.

IRRI and IPAC

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), for example, has developed a rice variety that can survive natural disasters, especially floods. With funding from the Gates Foundation, the IRRI hopes to increase rice yields by 50 percent in the next 10 years. Based on an Indian rice variety called Swarma, this climate-smart rice has an additional flood-resistant gene.

The rice was able to grow even after two weeks of flooding, whereas most rice varieties would not survive more than four days. This is a huge advancement that can attribute to the lingering agricultural issues in the Philippines.

The Philipinnes government is also working towards agricultural development by implementing the Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) Project. Funded partially by the World Bank, the project works on expanding the capacity of small farmers to make a living.

Through commercial agriculture and improved infrastructure, small-holder farmers can increase their incomes and slowly become more self-reliant. Developing irrigation systems in rural farming lands which is an important aspect of the project, makes farming more efficient for the people of the Philippines. The project plays an important role in reducing poverty, with 20 percent of the beneficiaries being poor farmers.

IFAC Projects in the Philippines

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has funded 16 projects that aid farmers from the Philippines. One project, Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (ConVERGE), helps Filipinos develop their farms into larger businesses by utilizing value chains.

IFAD provides investment and business plans to 55,000 farming households in the poorest parts of the Philippines. Through educating and guiding farmers, especially with the use of sustainable farming methods, IFAD hopes to increase their incomes and reduce poverty in the Philippines.

Through the combined efforts of organizations and the government, the issue of poverty among farmers in the Philippines is being addressed. Still, more work needs to be done in the field of agriculture development so that poverty rates in the country can begin to decrease.

– Massarath Fatima
Photo: Flickr

HIV in the PhilippinesHIV/AIDS in the Philippines continues to be a growing epidemic with an average of 68,000 individuals currently living with HIV, and fewer than half of them are being treated with antivirals. The Philippines now has the fastest growing HIV epidemic in Southeast Asia and in the world, reporting to have about 1,021 new cases of HIV/AIDS infected people in January 2018, with 17 percent of those newly infected individuals already showing signs of advanced infection. Luckily, the Philippines government is taking action to reduce HIV in the Philippines.

How the Philippines Are Addressing HIV/AIDS

In August 2018, a government organization called The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) signed a partnership with UNAIDS in order to fast track the reduction of the number of new HIV/AIDS infections within the country.

UNAIDS states that for the past seven years, annual, new HIV infections have more than doubled, reaching to about 12,000 in 2017. Because 80 percent of HIV cases are reported within 70 cities in Manila, LCP and local governments in the Philippines are taking direct action regarding this epidemic, pledging to eradicate this disease.

According to Laarni L. Cayetano, the National Chair of LCP, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is definitely an issue, stating it “‘needs urgent action among local governments, especially since key populations at risk of infections reside mostly in cities.'”

The Philippines are already beginning to address this issue by starting more innovative services to prevent HIV. Quezon City, for example, has continued to increase HIV funding since 2012 in order to build three clinics that now provide rapid, judgment-free HIV testing and counseling for those who are infected.

The Department of Health

The Department of Health (DOH) has launched a tri-beauty pageant, specifically a “Lhive Free Campaign,” in Quezon City in order to find ambassadors in the prevention of HIV/AIDS among youth. With DOH’s desire to reduce HIV in the Philippines, this campaign serves as a message to the people as well as provides free, early detection methods and free medications needed for those infected.

Beauty Queen and Actress Kylie Verzosa, who was crowned Miss International in 2016 and is currently a DOH ambassador, also supports this campaign and pageant. Although Verzosa is known for her advocacy on mental health, she also shares a passion to spread awareness of HIV/AIDS and promote its prevention. She sees HIV as a physical, emotional, and mental health concern, considering that depression and anxiety can be developed in an HIV patient struggling to live with this condition.

The DOH and World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines previously held free, anonymous HIV screenings in the workplace for more than 400 people, DOH staff members and walk-ins alike. They provided eight different stations located throughout the DOH grounds. This service not only helped to promote HIV/AIDS testing as a strategy to fight against this epidemic but it is also important, according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque, for DOH staff members to know their own HIV status as they are encouraging others to seek treatment.

Other Groups Working to Prevent HIV/AIDS

Other departments and organizations are working to help decrease the HIV/AID epidemic in the Philippines. Dr. Edsel Maurice T. Salvana, the director of the Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at The National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of the Philippines, reports that the NIH is researching and working on the molecular epidemiology of HIV viruses that appear to be drug-resistant. The NIH is also offering a variety of services for those infected in this country, such as HIV drug-resistance testing and genotyping, helping to end the further increase of the disease.

The Human Rights Watch also provided recommendations regarding the government’s approach to reduce HIV in the Philippines. The group suggests implementing further HIV prevention education within schools, providing access to condoms, destigmatizing the infection and reinitializing harm reduction programs that focus on injecting drug use.

The LCP partnership with UNAIDS serves as an opportunity and a push to help end the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country. As governments vow to reduce HIV in the Philippines, improvements in the health of the people the country will increase substantially. Advocating for and addressing this issue will not only encourage citizens to seek available treatments but it can also prevent the further spread of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines in the future.

Charlene Frett
Photo: Flickr

 

Disaster Relief in the Philippines
CARE is an international humanitarian organization that provides emergency relief and international development projects. Their mission is to save lives, fight against poverty, accomplish social justice around the world and help everyone to live in security. They also place focus on both women and children in several different countries who do not have equal rights and opportunities. CARE works in 94 countries around the world and supports over 1,000 humanitarian-aid and development projects fighting against global poverty.

CARE in the Philippines

This non-governmental organization has worked in the Philippines since 1949, and is known for responding to emergency disasters and providing preparedness and recovery. While typhoons and other natural disasters continue to affect the lives of many Filipino people, CARE’s disaster relief in the Philippines provides effective and innovative responses to emergencies.

CARE has responded to every typhoon in the Philippines, including Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 and current Typhoon Mangkhut in 2018. One of the strongest storms, Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, impacted around 17 million out of over 98 million people in the central region of the Philippines; this storm caused about 1.1 million homes to be damaged or destroyed.

CARES’ Disaster Relief

Regarding this storm, CARE immediately took action starting with providing aid to the Filipino people. After about a year, CARE provided emergency food assistance to over 54,000 households, feeding more than 9,000 children within their supported government school feeding program and training 500 community carpenters to rebuild destroyed homes. The program’s humanitarian aid in the Philippines has also involved and implemented an awareness of principles for building safer houses as well as identifying exactly what the most vulnerable in the Philippines need.

CARE has partnered with disaster professionals to respond to those affected by this typhoon; the organization also hopes to accomplish providing aid to 150,000 Filipino people who survived this emergency and natural disasters.

CARE continues to provide disaster relief in the Philippines and responds to every storm and disaster:

  • In 2014, just a few days after Typhoon Hagupit hit the Philippines, CARE immediately distributed food packages and emergency food rations to over 3,500 families who were affected.
  • CARE then initiated a fundraising request for $5 million in order to relieve and recover the needs of families as they plan to help families rebuild homes and income.
  • In 2017, CARE responded to the tropical storm, Tembin, that affected more than 500,000 people in the Philippines. CARE organized an emergency team and implemented needs and damaged assessments, providing relief assistance to those who were affected by the flooding.

This organization constantly continues their work in providing programs and teams to help relieve the Filipino people’s suffering during these storms and disasters. CARE focuses on providing disaster relief in the Philippines also promotes and desires to increase community resilience.

How CARE Provides its Aid

CARE provides its aid by amplifying the capacity of the people’s needs, adapting and predicting how certain disasters and issues are going to affect the population as well as discovering the causes of those in need of assistance. Due to this effort and dedication, CARE creates a better chance of implementing their humanitarian work while also adapting, protecting and reducing issues arising within the country.

CARE is currently responding to Typhoon Mangkhut, which is known to be one of the strongest storms to hit the northern Philippines in September 2018. CARE has immediately provided emergency response teams to Cagayan and they are continuing to assess damage and needs of the affected villages and towns. According to David Gazashvili, CARE Philippines’ Country Director, Care has “brought some supplies and shelter repair materials ready to be distributed to the affected families.” They are continuing to work with others responding to this typhoon to help assist the Filipino people’s needs.

Other Organizational Aid

Global Hand is a non-profit partnership that supports CARE and everything they do for the Philippines and other countries. The group also supports CARE’s desire to eradicate poverty and help those in need, especially families and those in need of aid and assistance.

Of course, there are other organizations such as USAID who have aided the Philippines during disasters. During the 2013 typhoon, USAID and the World Food Program had the ability to send 55 metric tons of nutritional foods to more than 20,000 children and 15,000 adults. According to USAID, the U.S. offered $20 million for humanitarian assistance for the emergency disaster in the Philippines.

CARE has always been there for the Philippines, never failing to be by the country’s side and help respond to emergency and natural disasters. While CARE also provides assistance in achieving equal rights for women and children as well as responds to sexual, reproductive and gender-based violence, CARE’s continued focus on disaster relief in the Philippines also helps end poverty. Their efforts in creating and implementing projects, programs and assistance will better the future and health of the Philippines.

– Charlene Frett

Photo: Flickr

War on DrugsAfter being elected President of the Philippines in June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte quickly declared a “war on drugs.” As a result, there have been more than 12,000 casualties to date with the majority of victims being the urban poor.

For two years, President Duterte’s “war on drugs” has caused numerous human rights violations by police, including extrajudicial killings. In some cases, the war has led Philippine National Police (PNP) to target children and impoverished populations, hindering poverty reduction.

How the “War on Drugs” Began

During his presidential campaign, President Duterte classified drug dealing and addiction as barriers preventing economic and social advancements for the country. Following his presidential election win, Duterte said, “go ahead and kill” drug addicts, which has been taken literally by the public. Suspected drug dealers and addicts became victim to vigilante attacks and police began conducting large-scale raids in Manila, Philippines.

Unfortunately, substance abuse is not uncommon in the Philippines. Marjoree Razal, a former resident of Manila, Philippines told The Borgen Project: “There are a lot of drug addicts and some children will begin using drugs at a very young age.” In fact, there are about 1.8 million drug users in the Philippines, and “shabu,” a form of methamphetamine, has been the most common drug of choice. According to a 2012 United Nations report, The Philippines had the highest rate of methamphetamine abuse in East Asia.

The “War on Drugs” Has Resulted in Human Rights Violations

According to data gathered by The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), between July 2016 and September 2017, the police had already caused the deaths of 3,906 alleged drug users and dealers. Thousands more have been killed by masked gunmen who were disguised police officers or hitmen working with police.

Razal said, “These killings did not become common until President Duterte took office. Most of the recent killings have been ordered by him.” An investigation conducted by The Human Rights Watch (HRW) uncovered that PNP has been continuously conducting extrajudicial killings of potential drug suspects and falsely declaring self-defense. Police are also guilty of planting weapons, ammunition and drug packaging on victims’ bodies to incriminate them of drug activity.

According to Peter Bouckaert of HRW: “The way the targeting takes place is that each community has to compile a list of drug users that is known as the “watch list.” From those lists, people are targeted for either police operations or they’re simply killed by unidentified gunmen.”

Since most of the extrajudicial killings have been done in Manila, Philippines, the urban poor population is being directly impacted as a result. Thousands of children have become orphans or are now living in single-parent households because of Duterte’s crackdown on drugs. Razal said, “It is not unusual for the government to mistreat the poor since the country thrives on money and power.”

The Effects of The War On Drugs

Rhoda, a 29-year-old widow, became a single parent after her husband was killed by police in the drug war. Rhoda now supports seven children by herself, but health problems prevented her from working last year. Since then, she has found a job selling beauty products and earns 4,000 pesos per month ($212).

Many children under age 18 have also died in the drug war since June 2016 because they were either with someone who was being targeted or, it has been suggested, were actual targets themselves. According to the Children’s Legal Rights and Development Center, at least 54 children have been killed by PNP or masked gunmen since July 2016.

In response to the killings of children, Duterte said there would be an investigation to hold the officers accountable; however, no investigation was ever launched, and the officers in question are still on active duty. In fact, to date, nobody has been prosecuted for any of the extrajudicial killings.

Additionally, the Philippine judicial system is considered to be corrupt and works very slowly. Since drug dealers and addicts are a stigmatized group, it is difficult for them to receive any political support even when there is no evidence that proves they took part in drug activity. President Duterte claims “The war against illegal drugs is far from over” and vows it will continue until 2022 despite the opposition.

Improvements

The Catholic church has formed a campaign against violence in efforts to help and provide shelter for victims. The St. Francis of Assisi and Santa Quiteria Parish in Caloocan, Philippines created a drug rehabilitation program as a nonviolent approach to combat the country’s illegal drug problem.

Rev. George Alfonso, a priest of the parish said: “We are not denying that drugs are a problem in our society. But instead of acting about the war against them, we decided to do something to help the person.” The church believes that addiction is a result of a social issue, not just an issue of crime.

Furthermore, during the June session of the Human Rights Council, 33 states are calling for the end of extrajudicial killings along with an investigation into those behind the acts. Several “unofficial” investigations have been started to look into the extent of the human rights violations that have occurred so far.

Since President Duterte’s removal of PNP from anti-drug operations, extrajudicial killings have declined, but continue to occur. Instead, the government needs to adopt a policy for addressing drug-related issues that is non-violent and improves public health in order to limit the spread of diseases from certain kinds of drug use such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and hepatitis.

By adopting harm-reduction measures, like education and access to rehabilitation, the amount of violence in poverty-stricken areas will begin to decrease and potentially bring about improved relations between the government and its people.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in the Philippines

Poverty in the Philippines is more persistent than in other countries in Southeast Asia. Consisting of 7,641 islands, the Republic of the Philippines is a country located in the western Pacific Ocean. Despite a declining poverty rate in recent years, 21.6 percent of the country’s population still live below the national poverty line.

Rural areas in the Philippines show a poverty rate of 36 percent in comparison with the 13 percent of urban areas. However, urban poverty has also shown a steady increase in recent years, possibly due to the unemployed and low-income migrants who are unable to afford housing.

Other key contributors to the poverty rate include vulnerability to shocks and natural disasters, an underdeveloped agricultural sector, high population growth and moderate economic growth. Here are 10 facts about poverty in the Philippines, including the causes, outcomes and improvements.

10 Facts About Poverty in the Philippines

  1. Agriculture is the main source of income for rural inhabitants, primarily in farming and fishing. Most farmers and small landholders live in areas that are prone to natural disasters or conflicts. Declines in agricultural productivity, unsuccessful small landholder farming operations and unsustainable practices have caused deforestation and weakened fish stocks.
  2. Over a third of the rural inhabitants in the Philippines are impoverished. Indigenous people residing in these areas experience higher rates of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty. A lack of access to productive capital and limited market access has created slow economic growth and underemployment. The rural poor have limited options for off-farm employment and low access to inexpensive financial services.
  3. The majority of poor Filipino households have only achieved basic levels of education. At least two-thirds of poor households are headed by an individual with an elementary level education or below. Additionally, most poor families have minimal access to health and education services.
  4. Poverty levels in the Philippines are affected by unrestrained population growth. The average poor family in the Philippines consists of six or more members. Similar to other countries, impoverished regions typically have higher birth rates. In rural areas in the Philippines, the average woman will have 3.8 children compared to the cities where the average woman will have 2.8.
  5. Four out of 10 poor families in urban areas do not have decent living conditions. Most of the poor households in urban areas reside as informal settlements in slum areas of major cities like Manila. These homes do not include proper facilities and also are bad for the environment. These settlers typically move to major cities from other provinces in search of better economic opportunity and livelihood.
  6. Moderate economic growth has not resulted in poverty reduction. The average annual GDP increased by only 0.63 percent per person between 1980 and 2005. Incidents of inequality among regions have also continued to increase, hindering the reduction of poverty. The country’s economic growth is directed at Manila and the two bordering provinces. This prevents distant provinces from sharing the benefits of prosperity.
  7. The Government of the Philippines utilizes social protection programs to provide poor families with direct assistance. Impoverished families can receive cash assistance through a conditional cash transfer program. The program requires all families to enroll their children in school and vaccinate their children with government-provided immunizations.
  8. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is working in the Philippines to improve the incomes and food security of rural populations. IFAD primarily focuses on women, fishers, small landholders and indigenous people residing in fragile ecosystems. Recent projects and programs are intended to improve the environment with natural resource management and sustainable access to land. Projects also include skills for managing soil and water along with support for fishing communities.
  9. President Rodrigo Duterte has been focused on improving poverty-related issues for the country’s poor. President Duterte signed an executive order to pass a law that makes contraception free and more easily accessible to the poor. Duterte is also improving infrastructure with new roads, bridges and airports as a result of a planned increase in expenditure. Such improvements will better connect impoverished communities to Manila and thus bring opportunities for better jobs.
  10. The government of the Philippines created AmBisyon 2040 and The Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 in efforts to reduce poverty. Both plans aim to improve living conditions for the poor and reduce poverty by 15 percent by 2022. To achieve this goal, it is recommended these policies work towards creating more jobs, improving productivity in all sectors and educating Filipinos with the necessary skills for work in today’s economy.

The Republic of the Philippines has made and continues to make improvements in poverty reduction. However, overpopulated urban areas and lack of economic opportunities for rural populations still create a need for more progress. The fact that such issues are receiving recognition from political leaders and various organizations is creating hope for the Philippines and its people.

– Diane Adame
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in The Philippines
Human rights are the basic rights inherent to all human beings from birth until death. These rights include the right to life and liberty, personal security, freedom from torture, freedom from discrimination and freedom from arbitrary arrest, among others.

Since the election of President Rodrigo Duterte in 2016, it has been widely alleged that these and many other basic human rights have been violated in the Philippines. According to Human Rights Watch, Duterte and his War on Drugs has plunged the Philippines into its worst human rights crisis since the dictatorship years of the 1970s and 1980s.

Here are 10 facts about the current environment of human rights in the Philippines.

10 Facts About Human Rights in the Philippines

  1. As of January 2018, Human Rights Watch claims that over 12,000 drug suspects have been killed since the War on Drugs Commenced on July 1, 2016. 
  2. From July 1, 2016 to September 26, 2017, 3,906 suspected drugs users and dealers were killed by police. These numbers from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency do not include deaths by unidentified gunmen — these so-called extra-judicial killings have been responsible for thousands of more deaths.
  3. An average of four Filipinos a day are killed by drive-by motorcycle attacks, according to data from the Philippines National Police.
  4. Between July 1, 2016 and September 26, 2017, 118,287 drug personalities were arrested, and 1,308,078 others surrendered to authorities. These numbers according to an official government report.
  5. Police have killed 56 children since the start of the War on Drugs according to Human Rights Watch.
  6. Since 1986, 177 Filipino reporters have been killed. According to Reporters Without Borders, the Philippines was the deadliest country in Asia for journalists in 2017. President Duterte has continually vilified journalists who have been critical of his administration.
  7. The Department of Labor and Employment reported that, as of 2017, 18,000 women and children work in dangerous small-scale gold mining operations in the Philippines.
  8. The Department of Social Welfare and Development stated that 85,570 child laborers work in the agricultural sector in the Philippines.
  9. More than 8,000 Filipinos were arrested from June 13 to June 26, 2018 for violating new anti-loitering laws. The laws have been labeled as discriminatory, essentially targeting and jailing poor Filipinos for being in public.
  10. As of September 2017, 94 percent of Filipinos behind bars were still awaiting their first day in court. The Department of Justice stated that it had over 700,000 outstanding cases.

Step-By-Step Improvement

Despite the precarious condition of human rights in The Philippines, the Duterte administration enjoys the highest public approval rating on record for a Filipino government dating back to the 1980s. On the other hand, international criticism of the administration’s War on Drugs and human rights record continues to pour in.

It’s encouraging that the international community and numerous Filipinos have refused to stay quiet over the current human rights condition. As a result, the topic of human rights in the Philippines has become a prominent global issue, which in itself is a step in the right direction towards positive change and improvement.

– Taylor Pace
Photo: Flickr

Biotechnology in the Philippines
Biotechnology in the Philippines is so important that a new biotechnology center is being built to support the Philippine Department of Agriculture. The project is being funded mainly by the U.S. Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, Public Law 480. Agriculture makes up 20 percent of the Philippine’s GDP, yet Filipinos dependent on agriculture as their main source of income are some of the poorest in the nation.

Biotechnology in the Philippines

Biotechnology is a science that allows farmers to be more efficient and environmentally conscious by growing more crops resistant to pests and diseases on less land. This scientific advancement is essential in the nation, as almost half of Filipinos work in agriculture and the country is experiencing significant population growth.

Rice is a staple in Filipino culture, but it is not the most nutritious of foods. Biotechnology in the Philippines is helping researchers develop Golden Rice, which is genetically modified rice that contains Vitamin A — a vital nutrient for human health. Just by increasing food production, biotechnology works to assist an ever-changing world facing overpopulation, starvation and climate change.  Climate change is changing the way people farm, as droughts and deforestation alter the amount of water that can be used for farming.

“The goal of constructing this center is to generate improved technologies, increase productivity, and enhance commercial value of DA’s priority crops such as rice, abaca, coconut, white and yellow corn, cotton, cassava, sweet potato, yam, tomato, and eggplant,” Dr. Roel R. Suralta, head of DA’s Crop Biotechnology Center.

Producing more crops more rapidly means more money in Filipino farmer’s pockets, and creating pest-resistant crops with the help of biotechnology will increase the likelihood that crops will be lucrative once harvested.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is the other main partner for the new biotechnology building in the Philippines. The organization was created in 1985 by the Filipino Department of Agriculture to ensure that the production of rice in the Philippines could feed all Filipinos. PhilRice’s mission is simple: produce quality rice to make sustainable and environmentally sound profits.

Biotechnology and plant breeding help rice crops stay pest-resistant in economically sound and sustainable ways. PhilRice also researches the creation of new, more nutrient-dense and water-efficient soil, and genetic modification of rice strains works to make the most cost-effective, pest-resistant breeds.

While the Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division analyzes the progress of these new technologies, the Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division looks to develop farm machinery for pre- and post-production to modernize rice farming operations. Such efforts have been met with policy support to ensure such new technologies and practices are successfully put into practice.

A communication team has also been put in place to educate and bring awareness to farmers and the general public on Rice Science for Development (RS4D). Training and education of new technologies and methods are projected to increase productivity and income for farmers.

Future Growth

In 1954, President Eisenhower enacted PL 480 in the United States to ensure that the U.S. provides food assistance abroad. Aside from continued research, the new building and continued efforts in the Philippines will uphold this 70 year-old promise, and educate and train people to utilize biotechnology for international good.

Biotechnology in the Philippines increased the agriculture market by $642 million, and 14 climate change resistant rice strains have been created in recent years. The strains in-use now only take 5 to 7 years to breed as opposed to 10 to 12, and such results provide international hope for feeding ever-growing populations and combating a changing climate. For these reasons, it’s essential for U.S. foreign aid to continue and for biotechnology in the Philippines to remain active in agriculture.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr