DSWD to identify poorest of the poor in Davao Region

Will the poorest of the poor stand up?

The new administration under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development, will finally be able to tell who among the Filipinos are really poor once the results of the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) are out by September this year.

NHTS-PR is an information management system that identifies who and where the poor households are.

“We have lots of data on poverty but none which says where and who are the real poor,” NHTS-PR regional focal person Desiree N. Piñgol said. With the use of the NHTS-PR which started March 2009, she said, the government hopes to have a definition of what “poor:” really means.

Just like the Census, hundreds of enumerators will be going from house to house not to inquire how much income the household is getting on a monthly or yearly basis. Instead, they will interview the households based on proxy means variables or factors that represents their economic condition,

There are actually 34 variables that will be considered by the System when making the ranking of the poorest of the poor including the physical condition of the house, ownership of assets, educational attainment of the household members and even their ability to access the basic social services.

“Each of these factors has its own value and it is the system which will rank them to come up with a clear picture of the economic status of the household involved,” she said.

This is actually a convergence of efforts of all the government agencies tasked to alleviate the country’s poverty level, she said. By knowing the real definition of poor and their exact location, she added, the agencies will be able to target the same people who need the government’s help and will ultimately maximize the budget to aid poor Filipinos. The database will also be shared with non government agencies and civil society groups.

Piñgol said there are many government programs and agencies to alleviate poverty in the country and yet poverty incidence is still high. The number of poor Filipinos has ballooned from 4.3 million in 2003 to 4.6 million in 2006.

“Baka hindi na target ng services yung mga totoong mahirap na nangangailangan ng tulong (maybe the programs were not able to target the poorest of the poor who really needs help),” she added.

She said a total of 495,150 families in Region XI have been enumerated. Based on the 2006 Census, they have identified areas where the poverty incidence is more than 50% or less.

Saturation efforts (everyone was included in the survey by the enumerators) were conducted among provinces where there is more than 50% poverty incidence. Random survey was conducted among provinces where there are only pockets of poverty.

Among the municipalities included in the random survey are Don Marcelino, Sta. Maria, Laak, Taragona and Talaingod. Jose Abad Santos and Sarangani were however included in the saturation drive as they have a poverty incidence of more than 50%.

“The result of the survey is expected to be more reliable because every encoder has his own account and all encoded items are validated,” she said. They will then run the Proxy Means Test results which will be posted in the different barangays to make sure it is correct.

She said the local verification committee will verify that the results are indeed accurate.

Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4P)

In the meantime, the DSWD provides temporary relief to the poor Filipino people through the 4Ps or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program. This is a 5-year poverty reduction strategy of the government that assists the poorest households by providing monthly cash subsidy and is now on its second year. It aims to help improve the health, nutrition and education of children.

“As of December 2009, a total of P271.914 million have been released in Region XI for the Program,” regional 4Ps focal person Merlita A. Paragama said. It has so far reached out to 49,899 beneficiaries.

Under the 4Ps, a household without school children is entitled to a P500 monthly allowance. The maximum amount a family (with children) can get is P4,200 for every quarter.

“We have noted an increase in the enrolment rate in Davao Oriental since the program was implemented in 2008,” she said.

While the 4P program has received a lot of flak for doling out money to the poor, Paragama said the goal of the program is really to provide the immediate needs of the poor families such as money to buy food.

“The program also aims to break the inter-regional cycle of poverty by targeting health and education,” she said. Most people do not appreciate the value of education because what they need immediately is food for their grumbling stomachs.

With the program, children of poor families are encouraged to go to school because they are given the money for their subsistence provided they strictly follow the checklist of the program. If the list of requirements, such as continued schooling is not followed, then they are either suspended from the program or ultimately terminated.

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