Hunger incidence up – SWS

Published by rudy Date posted on April 9, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – More Filipinos experienced “involuntary” hunger and considered themselves poor in the past three months, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey revealed yesterday.

The SWS survey, conducted from March 4 to 7, found 20.5 percent of respondents or about 4.1 million families saying they went hungry at least once in the past three months.

This was up from the 18.1 percent (an estimated 3.4 million families) recorded in November 2010, the SWS said.

The latest hunger rate is also almost seven points above the 12-year average of 13.8 percent, the pollster said.

The survey, published in the newspaper BusinessWorld yesterday, used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults nationwide.

The new SWS poll also found 51 percent or about 10.4 million families who considered themselves “mahirap” or poor, two points up from November’s 49 percent.

About 8.1 million families or 40 percent, meanwhile, claimed to be “food-poor,” up by four points from 36 percent in the previous survey.

The rise in overall hunger resulted from increases for both moderate and severe hunger, the SWS said.

SWS said hunger hit record highs in the area comprising balance Luzon.

Moderate hunger rose to 15.7 percent (an estimated 3.2 million families) nationwide, from 15 percent (2.8 million families) in November.

Moderate hunger refers to those who experience it only once or a few times.

Severe hunger – experiencing it often or always – increased to 4.7 percent (950,000 families) from 3.1 percent (588,000 families).

By area, overall hunger hit a record 25 percent or about 2.2 million families in balance Luzon from 18.3 percent (1.5 million families).

The new rate surpassed the previous high of 22.3 percent in September 2007, and offset declines in Mindanao (16.7 percent from 18 percent), Metro Manila (20.7 percent from 21.7 percent) and the Visayas (14.7 percent from 15.3 percent).

Moderate hunger hit a record 18.7 percent in balance Luzon, exceeding the 18.1 percent recorded in March 2010. This also cancelled out improvements in the Visayas (9.7 percent from 12.7 percent), Metro Manila (16.7 percent from 17.7 percent) and Mindanao (14.7 percent from 16 percent).

SWS said the new moderate hunger rates are still higher than their 12-year averages for all areas, except in the Visayas where the latest is lower than the 12-year average of 10.2 percent.

Severe hunger also hit a record high of 6.3 percent in balance Luzon, overtaking the six percent hit in December 2008. The rate stayed at four percent in Metro Manila and at two percent in Mindanao but rose to five percent from 2.7 percent in the Visayas.

The latest rates were also higher than the 12-year averages for all areas except for Mindanao where it is some two points lower, the SWS said.

Meanwhile, self-rated poverty went up in all areas except Metro Manila, where it fell 10 points to 34 percent from 44 percent.

However, it jumped by eight points in the Visayas (61 percent from 53 percent), by five points in Mindanao (49 percent from 44 percent), and by three points in balance Luzon (54 percent from 51 percent).

It also rose by four points in rural areas to 59 percent and by three points in urban areas to 45 percent.

Self-rated food poverty fell by four points to 24 percent in Metro Manila but increased elsewhere: from 39 percent to 51 percent in the Visayas, from 38 percent to 42 percent in balance Luzon and from 34 percent to 38 percent in Mindanao.

SWS said the self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget that poor households need in order not to consider themselves poor in general, remained sluggish despite inflation.

Compared to the previous quarter, the median poverty threshold for poor households stayed at P15,000 in Metro Manila, P9,000 in balance Luzon and P8,000 in the Visayas; while it rose to P7,000 from P5,000 in Mindanao. These amounts had been surpassed in the past in those areas, the SWS said.

As of March 2011, the median food-poverty threshold for poor households in Metro Manila fell back to P8,000 after a record-high P9,000 in the previous quarter. It went up to P5,000 from P4,000 in balance Luzon, stayed at P4,000 in the Visayas, and rose to P3,850 from P3,000 in Mindanao. These amounts had also been surpassed in the past, the SWS said.

As a measurement of belt-tightening, the SWS said Metro Manila’s median poverty threshold of P15,000 was barely above the P10,000 in 2000 even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had risen by over 60 percent. The P15,000, it said, is equivalent to just P8,886 in base year 2000 purchasing power and is a throwback to living standards of over 15 years ago.

At the March 2011 cost of living, the 2010 median of P10,000 is equivalent to P16,880, and deducting the current P15,000 means households cut living standards by P1,880.

In terms of food poverty, food-poor Metro Manila households tightened belts by P42.

The SWS survey has sampling error margins of plus or minus three percentage points for national and plus or minus six percentage points for area percentages.

Widen scope

While President Aquino respects the outcome of the latest SWS survey regarding the purported rising incidence of hunger and poverty, he said that it looked like the bulk of data used in the survey came from the NCR while the balance is from Luzon.

“The highest incidence of hunger has been noted in Visayas and Mindanao,” Aquino said.

“Sometimes, I cannot reconcile this,” Aquino said, noting that the conditional cash transfers (CCT) the government has released, or the bulk of these, are mostly for poverty-stricken Visayas and Mindanao.

“So, in the statistical sample that they used, those who had been helped by the CCT program were not captured,” he said, stressing that 1.3 million families will again be added to the project.

Alarming

Meantime, administration and opposition lawmakers expressed alarm over the increase of self-rated hunger in the country and urged President Aquino to work harder in improving the food situation and the economy.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said the Aquino administration must intensify the implementation of pro-poor and pump-priming programs, particularly cushioning the impact of fuel price increases.

“Who wouldn’t feel hungry? With the prices of fuel, oil and water and electricity skyrocketing, translating to increases in the prices of basic commodities, what will remain out of the budgets of Filipino families? Zero. Or even negative balance. The government has its hands full in reversing the effects of this downward trend,” Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said the survey was “not surprising” and called for the full implementation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, which mandates an annual expenditure of P20 billion for these sectors.

“This (higher self-rated hunger) means this administration has not implemented concrete programs to arrest unemployment, the rising costs of commodities and services, resulting to more hunger felt by the people,” Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay, a member of the minority bloc, said.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada, however, defended Aquino, saying most nations experience rising hunger due to increasing fuel costs and food shortage. -–Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) with Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero

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