SONA nga mangyari
DEMAND AND SUPPLY - Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) - July 22, 2019 - 12:00am

It’s the President’s fourth SONA, or State of the Nation Address, this afternoon. Yes, it has been that long. No wonder his principal propagandist, Secretary Martin Andanar is now thinking of the legacy his boss will leave behind.

Andanar told ANC’s Lynda Jumilla that in Duterte’s SONA, he will likely discuss the government’s efforts to reduce poverty, big-ticket infrastructure projects, and peace and order programs.

“Number one, poverty alleviation, bringing poverty rate down from 21 to 14 and making the economy upper middle class by the end of his term. Second would be the infrastructure projects,” Andanar said.

“And thirdly, there’s the peace and order highlighting the national task force to end local communist armed conflict, because you can never have progress without peace and order. And I think diyan tututok ang Presidente sa tatlong mensahe na iyan,” he said.

That’s well and good. All three should be priorities. I am just wondering if the administration has done enough in the past three years to justify Andanar’s hope that the President can leave legacy accomplishments in those areas.

What are the numbers? If you ask the Philippine Statistics Authority, the number of poor Filipinos has declined.

The proportion of the population living below the poverty line to the total population was estimated at 21 percent in the first half of 2018, below the 27.6 percent in the comparable period in 2015. Andanar said they want to bring this down to 14 percent by the end of Duterte’s term.

But how does one end up being classified as poor? The PSA says a family of five in 2018 needed no less than P7,337 to meet the family’s basic food needs for a month. This amount is the food threshold.

On the other hand, PSA estimates that P10,481 is the poverty threshold or what is needed to meet both basic food and non-food needs of a family of five in a month.

The trade unions mock this PSA-set poverty threshold as incredibly low, unrealistic and inhuman. That there are Filipinos who live on just that amount is a shameful indictment not just of government, but of our society.

The trade unions are making wage demands that effectively doubles the PSA poverty monthly threshold of P10,481 for a family of five. That would more than double the number of poor in the country.

Mahar Mangahas of SWS wrote in a column dated Nov. 12, 2016 that “For the National Capital Region, the official total threshold per person is P25,007 for the year, or P68.51 per day. Multiplying that by five and by 30 gives a wishful line of P10,276 per family per month for NCR.”

The self-rated poverty threshold as measured by SWS, has a median of P20,000 per month; this is what the poorer half of the poor need.

Mangahas explains how we should read poverty statistics from the PSA and the self-rated poverty surveys SWS conducts:

“What happened in 2016 and 2017? There were more movements in poverty that SWS observed, but PSA could not, for lack of data. Three months ago (in “Two years of rising poverty,” Opinion, 1/19/19), I pointed out that ‘The good-looking 10-point drop in poverty in 2014-16 was followed by a significant four-point increase in it in 2016-18.’

“That 10-point drop was in two stages: four points from the 2014 full-year average of 54 percent to the 2015 full average of 50 percent, plus six more points to the 2016 full average of 44 percent.

“Unfortunately, poverty crept back up to 46 percent in 2017, and then to 48 percent in 2018. Thus, most of the improvement that PSA is now reporting actually happened during 2014-16, and then it got partially dissipated in 2017-18.”

Okay… poverty reduction is obviously very much a work in progress. PSA isn’t likely to make their data more realistic because it will show more poor people and minimize any inroads the Duterte administration may make in cutting down the poverty rate.

On infrastructure, President Duterte has so far only been cutting the ribbons inaugurating projects started by P-Noy. After three years, the only major project started by this administration and certain of completion soon is the Clark airport terminal of BCDA.

But even with the Clark airport terminal, its start involved the project study funded and done by the French government, but was stupidly rejected by P-Noy for being too large.

That’s the same clueless P-Noy who wanted Mar Roxas to do a market study for the four kilometer LRT2 extension to Masinag because baka wala daw gumamit. Of course, the only market study they needed was Henry Sy’s mall in that corner.

That leftover project will soon be completed by DOTr and they should get most of the credit for it because Jun Abaya’s DOTC left it uncompleted and in a terrible mess. DOTr should extend LRT2 to Cogeo where a lot of ordinary wage workers and students who commute to Manila live.

Same with the Panglao airport, whose original studies date back to P-Noy or even Ate Glue, but completed in record time by Art Tugade of DOTr.

The Japanese-funded railways, subway and MRT rehab seem to be moving somehow. But the Chinese funded southern leg of PNR seems to still be in limbo. Hopefully, it is not because VP Leni Robredo is from Bicol.

Other infra projects originally listed under Build Build Build are slowly moving. Mr. Duterte won’t be able to inaugurate most of those projects by 2022.

Mr. Duterte was reported to have expressed admiration for former president Ferdinand Marcos because he left concrete projects, as in made of concrete, as his legacy. Two Cabinet members responsible for delivering concrete projects will have to work double or triple time.

As for peace and order and eliminating the NPA, we can always dream. Duterte is afraid to discipline the police and that’s key to a peace and order drive.

That’s all for the three priorities cited by Andanar. SONA nga mangyari ang mga ito.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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