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Change CCT scheme, lawmakers urge gov’t

Rep. Raymond Palatino. Photo taken from congress.gov.ph

After getting poor marks from the United Nations, lawmakers on Sunday said the administration should revamp its antipoverty program largely anchored on close to $1 billion-a-year dole under the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program that President Aquino adopted from the Arroyo administration.

“It is time to review the CCT and other supposedly poverty alleviation measures. The CCT is nothing but a Band-Aid solution whose effectiveness has been exaggerated by the Arroyo and Aquino administrations because they have nothing else to offer to end once and for all the intergenerational poverty in the country,” said Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino.

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In a recent UN report, the Philippines received failing marks in four of the seven Millennium Development Goals (MDG) adopted by UN member-states in 2000.

With only three years left before the 2015 deadline to meet the goals, the United Nations said the Philippines was years behind in eradicating extreme poverty, achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and sustaining maternal health.

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While it was rated “slow” in fighting poverty or “regressing” in boosting education, the Philippines was dubbed an “early achiever” in gender equality, the campaign against tuberculosis and environmental issues like forest cover, protected areas and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said the UN report bolstered criticisms against the CCT program being carried out by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which have been largely ignored by the administration.

“It shows that the CCT program is not the solution to address poverty. Making people productive through tertiary education and skills training program makes them more marketable for employment,” Magsaysay said.

The budget for the CCT, which gives an average of P1,400 per indigent family on condition that children below 14 are kept in school and mothers undergo medical care, has been raised to P44 billion next year from P39.5 billion this year.

In contrast, the entire allocation for the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), whose objective is to carry out the centerpiece social justice program to ease poverty, is getting only P21 billion next year, including P2.8 billion for support services of  beneficiaries.

Not permanent solution

Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino said the CCT should be seen as a bridge rather than a permanent solution to the country’s problems.

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“The CCT program is a transitional program tool in poverty alleviation that is necessary at this time. The big challenge is how to give employment opportunities eventually to the beneficiaries of the CCT,” Antonino said.

Palatino suggested that the government replace the CCT with a comprehensive program to deal with the roots of poverty and deprivation in the country.

“The CCT will do nothing but worsen destituteness in the country, as shown by the recent assessment of our MDG status,” he said.

National Economic and Development Authority Director General Arsenio Balisacan has said that the latest underemployment rate in July, which stood at 22.7 percent from 19 percent a year ago, is “disturbing.”

“That to me tells a lot about the quality of jobs that we are creating. While the economy is growing, there seems to be less access to quality jobs, particularly jobs that the poor need and jobs that match the skills of the poor,” Balisacan said.

The administration, he said, should create conditions that could further improve employment opportunities.

The Philippines’ “dismal” performance in its MDG goals is outlined in the Asia-Pacific Disaster Report 2012, a joint publication of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) and the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (Escap).

The 134-page publication described as “regressing” and “no progress” the Philippines’ performance in education-related objectives, and “slow” in dealing with antipoverty reduction and child mortality reduction, as well as maternal health problems.

But it cited the country for being an “early achiever” in gender equality, the campaign against TB and environmental issues like forest cover, protected areas, and reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

The Philippines is “on track” in other environment-related issues like basic sanitation and use of safe drinking water, it also said.

The nine other other Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states also scored “regressing” and “no progress” ratings for some of their MDG targets: Indonesia, HIV-AIDS and forest cover; Laos, HIV-AIDS and TB, and forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Cambodia, education and environment; Brunei Darussalam, environment; Malaysia, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Vietnam, carbon dioxide emissions; Myanmar, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; Thailand, education, child mortality, forest cover and carbon dioxide emissions; and Singapore, maternal health.

The seven MDGs are development targets 192 UN member-states and at least 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by year 2015.

Impact of disasters

According to the UNISDR and Escap report, “establishing direct links between MDGs and disasters is not an easy task, considering the complex interplay of the various types of economic, social, urban and environmental vulnerabilities.”

But, “several recent case studies clearly show the impact of disasters on several MDGs.”

“When Cyclone ‘Sid’ struck Bangladesh in 2007, its impact on the economy amounted to $1.67 billion. Damage and losses of $925 million in the social sector affected MDGs like achieving universal primary education, reducing child mortality and combating HIV-AIDs, malaria and TB. Damage and losses in the production sector adversely affected other MDGs, including eradicating poverty, while losses in infrastructure affected MDG No. 7, or ensuring environmental sustainability,” the report said.

Originally posted: 8:58 pm | Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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TAGS: anti-poverty program, Benigno Aquino III, CCT review, conditional cash transfer program, Congress, House of Representatives, Legislation, Millennium Development Goals, Philippine Government, Presidency, Raymond Palatino, United Nations
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