Help poor cope with hard times, Duterte urged

A ranking House leader and the chief of the National Anti-Poverty Commission said more Filipino families were in danger of falling below the poverty line due to the steep rise in the cost of living as they called on President Duterte to either suspend or scrap the controversial Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.

The Duterte administration’s new taxation and economic policies are taking their toll on the country’s poor, which comprise 21.6 percent of the population, they said.

Antipoverty Secretary Liza Maza said higher transport fares and rising prices of basic goods would increase the number of families experiencing hunger this year—well past the current figure of 2.3 million.

Assistant Majority Leader and 1-Pacman Rep. Michael “Mikee” Romero said many underprivileged families could weather the storm and cross the poverty line if the government created more jobs and brought down the underemployment rate from 16.3 in 2017 to below 10 percent.

The Philippine Statistics Authority pegged the poverty threshold at P10,969, and the national food threshold for a family of five at P7,638, the amount required so they could have three meals a day.

Transformational impact

“To cross that poverty line, we must create more jobs and reduce the underemployment rate to below 10 percent, keep more Filipinos in school and have more of them graduate, and focus on maternal health and child care,” Romero said, pointing out that medical expenses shrink family budgets.

He said even modest results from these three key areas would have a clear transformational impact on the lives of the poor.

Many families depend on just one breadwinner, usually the father, Romero noted.

“However, if there are at least two breadwinners, families can escape poverty. With two breadwinners earning minimum wage or higher, household income grows,” he said.

Quirino Rep. Dakila Carlo Cua, chair of the House ways and means committee, said the government’s promised social protection measures could cushion the impact of inflation on poor families.

Cua said the committee obtained the assurance of government agencies during a discussion on Thursday to expedite welfare assistance

By the end of July, he said, the Department of Social Welfare and Development committed to provide the full amount of P2,400 to 8 million families targeted by the unconditional cash transfer under the TRAIN law.—REPORTS FROM MELVIN GASCON AND JEROME ANING

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