Saying that poverty is a larger war to be fought and that international aid is all about compassion rather than begging, Vice President Leni Robredo brought together antipoverty groups and aid agencies in a summit on Monday to come up with antipoverty solutions for the country’s 50 poorest municipalities.
Robredo, who marked her 100 days in office on Friday, on Monday launched her flagship program, Angat Buhay: Partnerships Against Poverty, which is aimed at raising the quality of life of every Filipino family through collaboration at the local government level.
Under the Angat Buhay program, an initial 50 local government units will be partnered with nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and private
corporations that can help them fund projects such as for housing, infrastructure, education, livelihood and disaster management.
The program was the product of her countless travels to the poorest towns across the country, where she and her team learned that many Filipinos are deprived of even the most basic services due to inefficiencies, barriers to development and other challenges, Robredo said.
Poverty: the larger war
“We learned [that] poverty is the root cause of many Filipino families suffering. Poverty is a larger war that needs our focus and attention,” she said, addressing the summit attended by more than 1,000 representatives from local government units, as well as international and local NGOs.
She said poverty causes the rise in the number of maternal deaths due to poor access to proper health care and this leads to irreversible stunting in the first 1,000 days of many Filipino children.
“It has pushed our people, young and old, to take or sell drugs and commit all forms of crime. It disempowers and erodes the dignity of the
majority of our people, especially in the remote rural areas and the congested urban informal settlements,” Robredo said.
Poverty has also caused many women to be disenfranchised and more small farmers, fisherfolk and laborers—the country’s food producers—to go hungry and suffer from malnutrition, she said.
To combat poverty, Robredo said the government needs a lot of financial resources and trust among partners, which she noted was a currency her office had in abundance.
She said her office has received an outpouring of offers for funding support, expertise and experience from the business community, domestic and foreign NGOs, embassies and multilateral and international aid organizations.
“I’ve never looked at aid from other countries as a beggar-donor relationship,” she said, adding that giving aid was a partnership of two parties in finding ways and means to find the best solutions to the world’s complex problems.
“Our relationship with our foreign neighbors is not a one-way street, where we are the only one on the receiving end,” she said.
“As such is not about a country begging from another, but about human beings who recognize each other’s limitations and their need to harness their unique gifts and strengths, for the benefit of the greatest number who remain vulnerable,” she said.