Friday, 02 June 2000

Attacking poverty on all fronts
By Gina Mission 

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Agricultural development, housing, livelihood and micro-enterprise development, workers' welfare and protection, infrastructure, and poverty monitoring programs complete the anti-poverty programs of the government. Along with the environment and ancestral domain, and social services programs, these are considered the government's "main interventions" in the battle against poverty. 

.....For the programs to have maximum impact, the government recognizes that these should be focused squarely on the target poor communities. Agricultural development, for instance, is targeted at agrarian reform communities, and housing assistance, at urban poor dwellers, and so on.

Agricultural development 

.....In food security, the government's short-term goal is food distribution; for the medium term, increased food production; and for the long term, food self-sufficiency. It is for this reason that the agricultural development program, which has a budget of P10.6 billion, while promoting productivity, is also designed to address rural employment and income generation. 

.....The projects include the provision of farm inputs such as agricultural extension, credit, fertilizers, pesticides, farm-to-market roads, irrigation, post-harvest facilities and income augmentation through enterprise development. 

Infrastructure program 

.....The P611.5-million infrastructure program involves three components: rural electrification, the rehabilitation and concreting of roads, and the establishment of waterworks systems to improve public health. 

.....The premise is that basic infrastructure support facilities such as these will benefit poor communities, especially in the rural areas. These will spur economic activities, raise rural incomes and facilitate the provision of social services. 

.....Specific projects include farm-to-market roads, irrigation, potable water supply, electricity, health centers, electric cooperatives and power supply.

Livelihood/micro enterprises 

.....Under this program, families and communities will be encouraged to form their own enterprises to augment their incomes. Communities will be assisted in enterprise development initially in such areas as grains, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and fisheries, and financial assistance will be provided. 

.....This P30-billion program involves skills training, technical assistance, lending and cooperative programs, livelihood enterprise, and loans. At present, livelihood projects under this program include vehicle acquisition for drivers or operators, handicraft-making for women, fish culture for fisherfolk, and fruit and vegetable processing for farmers.

Workers' protection 

.....The report of the National Anti-Poverty Commission does not indicate funding for the workers protection program, but the government has listed the issues and concerns in this sector that should be addressed. For workers in the informal sector, these include security in the workplace, provision of adequate labor, social and legal protection, access to programs and services normally provided to workers in the formal sector, and participation in decision-making. For workers in the formal sector, security of tenure, the right to organize, and decent wages are the standards to be pursued. 

.....The NAPC reports on projects for the different sub-sectors of workers. One, Kabuhayan 2000, is a special program designed to help poor but deserving students pursue their education by giving them jobs during summer and Christmas time. 

.....Tulay 2000, a program under the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, aims to integrate persons with disabilities into the mainstream of society through training and employment. Another program--self-employment and livelihood-seeks to create self-employment among rural workers and their families, particularly those with no lands or other assets. Their entrepreneurial potentials are developed by giving them training, credit and technical assistance. 

Entrepreneurship for women

.....The Women Workers Employment and Entrepreneurship Development Program is designed to ease the plight of needy women, particularly those in the informal sector. It aims to "mainstream" and speed up their socio-economic endeavors, especially in entrepreneurship and cooperativism, so they can be productive and competitive members of society. 

.....The Working Youth Center Program was created to develop young workers who are employed, underemployed and self-employed, into effective leaders, self reliant and productive citizens, through leadership skills training and livelihood opportunities. 

.....The Revitalized Labor Standards Enforcement program is an action-oriented training program developed to assist small and medium enterprise workers in improving their working conditions and productivity. 

Displaced workers

.....The Comprehensive Program Package for Displaced Workers gives assistance to farmers and workers who were displaced locally and overseas as a result of the present economic crises. The Job Watch program aims to generate and provide information on job situations and workers displaced as a result of the crisis. The Public Employment Service Office facilitates employment as a response to the perceived limitation in the government's employment delivery mechanism.

.....The Job Loss Prevention Program aims to help distressed companies from closure or other measures that would cause the loss of jobs among employees. If company closure is inevitable, the Conciliation/Mediation Services, an advisory/counseling program, will assist workers about to be displaced in negotiating a better separation package. 

Sheltering the poor 

.....This P6.9-billion program is primarily designed to provide low-cost housing to the poor, help them acquire houses and lots, and protect them from demolitions or forced evictions. 

.....Under this program, the Bantay demolition/forced eviction task force was created, which monitors and evaluates demolition and forced evictions, investigates violations of demolition/housing guidelines, and assists in the relocation of urban poor squatters in various areas. 

.....Other projects under this program include the relocation of squatters, policy advocacy, research, databank management, linkages and financing to help the poor establish community-based income-generating activities, as well as resource generation. 

.....Finally, to measure government's success in reducing the country's poor people, a P170-million poverty monitoring system was created to be carried out by the National Economic Development Authority. At the end of each year, starting 2000, the monitoring group will take a close look at the 100 poorest families in each of the country's 78 provinces, to see if the various programs have improved their lives. 

.....Until then, no one would be able to tell if Estrada's centerpiece program has eradicated, or at least made a dent on that blight called poverty.