P7,528 monthly 'no-frills' food budget unrealistic, government told
Citing latest government data, Pernia said the poverty incidence among families in the country fell to only 16.6% in 2018 from 23.3% in 2015.
Noel Celis/AFP, File
P7,528 monthly 'no-frills' food budget unrealistic, government told
Franco Luna (Philstar.com) - December 12, 2019 - 6:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — Government's claim that a family of five can subsist on P7,528 a month on a "no frills" diet denies the realities that the poor in the Philippines face, fisherfolks' and farmers' groups said.

Fisherfolk federation Pamalakaya (Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas) said the Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia should "get real," while peasant women's federation Amihan said the claims were indicative of "government neglect and non-intention for authentic poverty alleviation."

"Instead of sincerely working for poverty alleviation, they deny even the impoverished state of the people," Pamalakaya chairperson Fernando Hicap, a former party-list congressman, said in a press statement.

This came after Philippine Statistics Authority Assistant Secretary Rosalinda Bautista said on Wednesday that P10,727 is the minimum amount for a family to afford basic items.

According to the PSA, the P10,727 is the poverty threshold, or "the minimum income required to meet the basic food and non-food needs such as clothing, fuel, light and water, housing, rental of occupied dwelling units, transportation and communication, health and education expenses, non-durable furnishing, household operations and personal care and effects."

“That is known as basic needs so 'no frills'. No fancy items there [and] I’m sure many families are subsisting with that kind of budget,” Pernia explained at a press briefing in Malacañang on Wednesday. 

The World Bank has been using $1.90/day as its International Poverty Line since 2015. In 2019, that is around P96.45 per day or around P2893.50 a month and around P14,467.50 a month for a family of five.

NEDA officials at the briefing even presented a sample menu of food items they said could sufficiently feed a family of five for just P7,528 a month.

The PSA calls this the food threshold, or "the minimum income required to meet the basic food needs, satisfying the nutritional requirements set by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute to ensure that one remains economically and socially productive." 

The "sample menu" included a lunch of boiled monggo with malunggay to go with dried dilis, steamed rice, and a banana. Bautista said the items listed in the menu would meet 100% of the energy requirements along with four-fifths the requirement for protein, calcium, and iron.

"Actually, that is not enough because of high prices of rice, vegetables, meat, fish and other items at the market," Zenaida Soriano, Amihan national chairperson, said in Filipino in a separate press release. She said the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law, which lowered income taxes but also raised excise taxes on fuel, caused the increase in prices.

According to Pamalakaya, the sample food budget would mean that an average meal of P81 would be adequate for a family of five.

Declining poverty

PSA also claimed on December 6 that poverty incidence fell to 12.1% based on the monthly poverty threshold for a family of five of P10,727. 

According to the PSA, this was to be expected as poverty incidence has been on the decline after they said, it went down to 16.6% in 2018 from 23.3 percent originally in 2015 before Duterte's term. 

As a result, the PSA said, around 5.9 million Filipinos were no longer considered poor in 2018. 

Rep. Joey Salceda (Albay) called this "the most significant positive news in the first three years of the Duterte administration.”

But think tank Ibon Foundation in a report released on December 7 said that the methodology behind the state-run PSA's survey severely underestimated the plight of the poor. 

Ibon said that the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act, defined the word “poor” as any “individuals and families whose income fall below the poverty threshold as defined by [NEDA].” 

The PSA report on the survey defines the poverty threshold as "no less than P 10,481, on average, [which] was needed to meet both basic food."

Thus, the report from Ibon reads, "[P]overty estimates according to this methodology are unbelievably low and unrealistic [as] this is just around P71 per person per day at P50 for food needs and P21 for non-food needs."

Hicap said the government is claiming "that a person with P80 in his pocket or her purse is not poor."

"This government attempts to claim accomplishment by downgrading the benchmark of poverty and disqualifyng the obviously poor. This is plain manipulation by the numbers," he said.

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