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Soliman downplays findings of SWS survey on hunger

MANILA, Philippines - Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman downplayed yesterday the findings of the recent Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey which showed that hunger incidence in the country went up to 22.5 percent at the end of 2011.

Soliman noted that the increase was only one percentage point and if the margin of error plus or minus three percentage points used in the survey is applied, there was really no increase in hunger rate.

“The hunger rate did not really move,” Soliman said at the weekly Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel media forum.

Soliman said that increase in hunger incidence was recorded in areas hit by disasters.

She also noted that the same survey showed that poverty rate in the country declined by seven percentage points.

“There are more people who thought that they are not poor (45 percent). According to (SWS president) Mahar (Mangahas), it’s the biggest drop for the last five years. People basically think their life is improving,” the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) chief said.

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The Fourth Quarter 2011 Social Weather Survey, taken from Dec. 3 to 7, 2011, found the proportion of families experiencing involuntary hunger at least once in the past three months at 22.5 percent, or an estimated 4.5 million families.

The latest hunger rate was one point higher than 21.5 percent (estimated 4.1 million families) in the previous quarter.

The measure of hunger refers to involuntary suffering because the respondents answer a survey question that specifies hunger due to lack of anything to eat, the SWS said. 

‘CCT a failure’

For Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan, the recent SWS survey indicating increased hunger is an evidence that the Aquino administration’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is a failure.

“It is high time for the Aquino administration to rethink its CCT program and in its stead, implement a more sustainable poverty alleviation program that will address the growing hunger and poverty among Filipinos,” Ilagan said.

She also said poverty and hunger surveys should help guide Malacañang and the DSWD in the creation of its proposed budget for 2013. The budget call for 2013 has officially commenced and various departments are expected to submit their proposal for the 2013 budget in the first quarter of this year.

Ilagan said it has been four years since the CCT was first implemented under the Arroyo administration, yet this has not resulted in any significant improvement in the lives of poor Filipino families.

“The undeniable fact remains that more Filipinos are poor. The Aquino government should cut if not totally forgo spending for the CCT. Let us stop wasting billions in taxpayers’ money for a failed anti-poverty program. Instead, this should be realigned to the delivery of direct social services such as health, housing and education,” she said. 

Sustainable solutions

The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ (CBCP) social arm, meanwhile, said President Aquino should also look for sustainable solutions to the hunger problem in the country.

CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (Nassa) chairman Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said it seems the Aquino administration has no other specific program to address the hunger problem apart from the CCT program.

“What they promised was the CCT but how many families are benefiting from it? They have yet to reach the bigger problem, or the bigger number of Filipino families who go hungry,” Pabillo said. – With Paolo Romero, Evelyn Macairan

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