Amid rising consumer prices and sluggish growth, the number of Filipino families who consider themselves “mahirap” or poor dropped by 1.3 million in the past three months, a recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed.
The SWS poll, conducted from Dec. 3 to 7, 2011, found 45 percent of respondents (about 9.1 million households) saying they were “mahirap” or poor, down from 52 percent (about 10.4 million families) in September.
SWS said the new poverty rate was just two points above the all-time low of 43 percent recorded in March 1987 and March 2010.
Results of the SWS survey, published in the newspaper BusinessWorld yesterday, also found 36 percent (estimated 7.2 million) of respondents who claim they are poor in terms of food, five points down from 41 percent (estimated 8.2 million) in September.
The December 2011 poverty rate, the lowest so far achieved under the Aquino administration, put the 2011 average at 49 percent, up a point from 2010. The food-poor count average, meanwhile, was 38 percent, two points higher compared to 2010.
SWS, however, noted that self-rated poverty rose by 19 points to 38 percent in Mindanao and by eight points to 47 percent in Metro Manila.
It dropped by eight points to 45 percent in balance Luzon and by a point in the Visayas to 52 percent.
Self-rated poverty also declined by 13 points in rural areas to 49 percent and by two points to 41 percent in towns and cities.
Self-rated food poverty also plunged by 14 points to 30 percent in Mindanao and by eight points to 37 percent in balance Luzon.
However, it rose by six and four points, respectively, to 31 percent in Metro Manila and 43 percent in the Visayas.
SWS said families continued to tighten their belts with the self-rated poverty threshold – the monthly budgets poor households say they need in order not to consider themselves poor -– staying sluggish despite rising inflation.
It fell to P10,000 in Metro Manila, P6,000 in balance Luzon and P6,000 in the Visayas, while it stayed at P6,000 in Mindanao.
Median food-poverty thresholds, meanwhile, fell to P5,000 in Metro Manila and P3,750 in the Visayas, but stayed at P4,000 in balance Luzon and P3,500 in Mindanao.
The SWS survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults.
It used sampling error margins of plus or minus three percentage points for national and plus or minus six percentage points for area percentages.
Malacañang welcomed the results of the SWS survey and reiterated its commitment to reduce if not eradicate poverty in the country.
“While these findings are welcome, the administration will not let up in its reform agenda. We remain firm in the belief that good governance is the root cause of positive results in our economic and human development efforts,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
According to the Palace official, this is “thus far the lowest under this administration,” referring to the survey results that the number of families that consider themselves poor has declined to 45 percent.
Lacierda cited Aquino’s ceremonial switch-on of the Heart and Soul Project and the Household Electrification Program. “It brings us closer to our goal of giving electricity to 90 percent of households currently without electricity by 2017.”
“Both endeavors also prioritize the electrification of off-grid households through the use of sustainable and renewable energy sources,” he said in a statement.
“The potential of such projects can only be fully realized if they are handled with integrity. The Aquino administration remains committed to the pursuit of justice on all fronts; inclusive growth and equitable progress remain our driving principles,” the palace spokesman said. With Delon Porcalla