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Assist the PhilippinesIn the Philippines, almost 17% of the population lives under the poverty line, for a multitude of economic, social and geographical reasons. Combating poverty throughout the Philippines, in both the bustling metropolises and isolated villages, requires significant organization, scalability, effort and adaptability. International Care Ministries (ICM) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that rose to the challenge to assist the Philippines by providing aid to the most destitute and financially anemic beginning in 1992, and it has continued to do so ever since.

When Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte imposed an “enhanced community quarantine” in response to COVID-19, life changed dramatically for those people whom ICM designates as “ultra-poor.” To assist the Philippines and these people and families who live on less than 50 cents a day, ICM has reached out in significant and measurable ways.

The Problem

For many Filipinos, the quarantine has been devastating. In more remote areas, for instance, restricting travel also restricts job opportunities. In late June, the National Economic and Development Authority predicted that 12 million people would be out of work in the Philippines by year’s end, which is over one-tenth of the country’s population.

Having a reliable income can be the difference between manageable food security and malnutrition for countless Filipinos. For some communities, such as those in the persistently poverty-stricken Bangsamoro and Bicol regions, the continued loss of income opportunities means rising hunger, which can also foster dangerous situations in areas more vulnerable to violence.

ICM’s Shift

Because of International Care Ministries’ history in the Southeast Asian archipelago, the organization was able to shift its focus and utilize an already well-developed system of local volunteers and aid to assist the Philippines in combatting the effects of COVID-19 on the ultra-poor. Regional locations where ICM already had a foothold, like the Visayas and Mindanao, received significant emergency assistance. As of the end of September, ICM had delivered more than 14 million meals to hungry Filipinos.

The CEO of ICM, David Sutherland, sees the NGO as a way to reach those who are currently being overlooked, particularly through ICM programs such as the Rapid Emergency and Disaster Intervention (REDI) system. “We estimate that 8 million poor people live in areas where ICM operates, so that means ICM has already distributed food to more than a third of poor Filipino families across vast areas of the country,” Sutherland said.

Partnered Impact

ICM has also partnered with the Filipino Department of Health to assist the Philippines in feeding nearly 20,000 malnourished children. In addition, ICM has distributed more than 350,000 gardening kits and 130 million seeds to help poor Filipinos grow their own food. Capitalizing on the breadth of its connections in the Philippines, ICM distributes both general and selective aid. It actively looks to connect with families and children most at risk of starvation or facing critical levels of malnourishment. Calls for help can even come in the form of texts. That way, local volunteers and pastors, partnering with the government, can direct aid where it is most needed.

The alleviation of hunger in the short term is essential for communities to survive in the days to come. However, the propagation of farming and gardening initiatives signals a long-term plan to create a steady supply of nourishment. As the effort continues, larger problems remain. Still, this partnership between ICM and the government has been a saving grace for millions around the Philippines.

– Alan Mathew
Photo: Unsplash

midterm elections in the Philippines
Millions of voters marched to the polls on May 13, 2019, for the 2019 midterm election in the Philippines. More than 18,000 government positions were up for election, but all eyes were on the Senate race due to its influence on President Rodrigo Duterte’s authoritarian agenda.

All 12 Duterte-backed Senate candidates won by a landslide, demonstrating the popularity of President Duterte’s policies. Three candidates in the spotlight were former special assistant to President Bong Go, former police chief and the architect of Duterte’s drug war, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, and Imee Marcos, the daughter of the former dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

The Consolidation of Power

The results indicate that the destructive drug war plaguing the Philippines is far from over. So far, the conflict has resulted in a total of 22,983 deaths since Duterte took office in 2016, according to the Philippine National Police. This statistic includes suspected drug users, drug pushers and civilians living in impoverished communities, all of whom the President and his police force see as collateral damage.

During Duterte’s war on drugs, not a single drug lord received apprehension. Further, the drug war has not effectively reduced drug use or decelerated the drug trade in the Philippines. On the contrary, the drug war has caused the prices of methamphetamines, or shabu, to lower by a third of the original price, increasing the accessibility and prevalence of the drug.

Additionally, Duterte’s policies include reinstating the death penalty and lowering the age of criminal liability from 15 to 9 years old. Before the midterm elections, a portion of the Senate did not approve of Duterte’s policies, resulting in political gridlock. Now, Duterte’s newly-consolidated legislative power gives him the upper hand in following through with these policies.

Duterte’s High Approval Rating

Despite Duterte’s undemocratic tactics, his approval rating remains high at 81 percent. Duterte has garnered support for his strongman leadership and his promises to keep the streets safe. His popularity reveals the nation’s fragility and puts into question the stability of the Philippines’ political structures.

The Opposition

The opposition still holds a stake in the political landscape despite the lack of congressional representation after the midterm election in the Philippines.

The opposition includes key figures such as former Senator Leila de Lima and Rappler journalist, Maria Ressa. Duterte has imprisoned both Lima and Ressa in order to silence their critiques against his administration, but human rights groups are dedicated to releasing them from prison, claiming that they received conviction without a fair trial. These human rights groups include the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and FORUM-ASIA, and they are determined to hold the Filipino government accountable for all human rights violations.

Efforts abroad are also looking to combat the Duterte administration, such as the Malaya Movement. The Malaya Movement is a U.S.-based organization that organizes events such as rallies and summits and mobilizes individuals to petition against the drug war and government corruption in the Philippines. Its mission is to broaden the opposition against Duterte’s policies and endorse freedom and democracy in the Philippines.

– Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

10 Facts About Slums in Manila
Since as early as the mid-1900s, impoverished citizens of Manila, Philippines have resided in informal settlements known as slums. The metro Manila area has several of these slums which houses much of the poor population of the city. Below are 10 facts about slums in Manila.

10 Facts about slums in Manila

  1. An estimated 35 percent of the metro Manila population live in unstable, poorly constructed shelters in slums. Eleven percent of slum residents live near unsafe areas like railroads and garbage dumps. According to the World Bank, living conditions in slums are worse than in the poorest rural areas. The Mega-Cities Project’s research found that tuberculosis rates were nine times higher than in non-slum areas and that rates of diarrheal disease were two times higher.

  2. It is extremely difficult to collect adequate demographic data on slum populations, as most constituents lack a proper address. Even if surveyors reach slum occupants, most are timid to answer questions due to the fear that surveyors will use the information to demolish their shelters or resettle them. Most slum residents have very little or no tenant security. However, in 2000 the Asian Development Bank estimated a total slum population of around 3.4 million in Manila.

  3. The rate of childhood malnutrition is three times higher in the slums than in non-slum areas. According to USAID, children sometimes have to sort through garbage for scraps of food. A study of the Smoky Mountain slum found that 80 percent of children aged eight months to 15 years who scavenged for food had at least two species of intestinal parasites. An Asian Development Bank study found that 50 percent of children were anemic. This is despite the fact that many of these children have access to medical facilities.

  4. Residents in Manila slums lack access to proper sanitation and a clean environment. USAID states that 66 percent of slum residents lack an adequate way to dispose of human waste and often resort to open pits or rivers. A UNICEF study found that only 16 percent of children in the slums have access to clean drinking water. As a result, residents often turn to vendors or contaminated groundwater. The child mortality rate in slums is three times higher than in non-slum areas according to the Philippines Health Department.

  5. Project PEARLS is providing children in Manila slums with food and health care. The organization has three different food programs for the children of Manila slums. PEARLS launched The Soup Kitchen program in July 2015, which feeds at least 300  children per day on a budget of $160. The organization also provides free medicine to children for illnesses like dehydration, flu, pneumonia and infections, as well as various wounds.

  6. Slum settlements in Manila are extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. The Philippines ranks fourth in the global climate risk index and is often prone to typhoons, flooding, earthquakes and other natural disasters. The instability of the often homemade shelters provides little to no protection from these calamities. The Asian Development Bank states that this and the fact that most slums are in dangerous locations make slum settlements vulnerable to natural hazards. Heavy rains in July 2000 caused a landslide of garbage that killed 218 people in a slum settled on top of a garbage dump.

  7. Habitat for Humanity is building stable shelters for slum residents in Manila. With the help of volunteers, the organization builds around 5,000 homes every year. The team works with the local government to rebuild homes and also construct new homes that can withstand the natural elements. From digging the foundation to pouring the concrete and laying the roof, the organization and volunteers create sustainable homes from the ground up for thousands of impoverished slum residents.

  8. The moderate economic growth in recent years did not help to mitigate poverty or slums. The Asian Development Bank reported an average 5.3 percent increase in GDP from 2003 to 2006. Poverty rates increased from 24 percent to 27 percent during that time and continued to increase in 2007 when the GDP growth was 7.1 percent. Chronic poverty, driven by factors like severe inequality and corruption, hinders the reduction of slum residents and settlements. The Philippines ranked 141 out of 180 countries in the 2008 Transparency International corruption perceptions index. According to the Asian Development Bank, local political dynasties manipulate markets to deter the poor from accessing private goods and capital. In 2006, the richest 20 percent owned 53 percent of the wealth in the country.

  9. Poverty is fuelling online child sex abuse in the slums. The live streaming of child pornography in these locations has led UNICEF to name the Philippines the global epicenter of the online child sex abuse trade. Despite the new cybercrime unit at the Philippines National Police Headquarters and the passage of an Anti-Child Pornography Law, convictions remain low and case reports high. This is partially due to the fact that the age of consent in the Philippines is only 12 years old. UNICEF reports that parents have even brought their children to these shows to earn money.

  10. Police and government corruption have engendered the unlawful killings of thousands of slum citizens at the hands of officers since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. These corrupt and violent raids target slum residents the most. A Human Rights Watch report found that these raids have unlawfully killed over 7,000 people. The report states that police often falsify evidence and falsely claim self-defense to get away with these extra-judicial killings. Although Duterte has not called for extra-judicial killings, his repeated calls for the killing of drug offenders and an absence of any investigations into the killings prompted the Human Rights Watch to label this campaign as a possible progenitor of crimes against humanity.

The Manila government has struggled to find ways to reduce poverty and the population of slum residents, but poverty is a drain on Manila’s economy. According to the Asian Development Bank, for every one percent increase in poverty, there is a 0.7 percent decrease in overall per capita income. Along with this economic algorithm, a lack of investment, access to capital and financial markets throughout slum communities hinders economic growth. Different non-governmental organizations like Habitat for Humanity and Project PEARLS are providing basic essentials and helpful assistance for the different struggles of slum life. However, the Philippines requires more research and both domestic and international assistance to mitigate and eventually solve the aforementioned 10 facts about slums in Manila.

– Zach Brown
Photo: Flickr