Tuesday, August 25, 2009

After eight years, are people better off under Arroyo?

At around noon, Laarni started having labor pains. She was about to give birth to her first child, but she refused her family’s plea to take her to the hospital. She insisted on delivering her baby at home. Her stubbornness caused Laarni her life. She died three hours later due to profuse bleeding after giving birth. Laarni is only one of the thousands of Filipino women who die in child birth due to poverty, lack of education, and inadequate access to health care services. She was not able to attend college for lack of funds, so she decided to work in a nearby factory and become the family’s breadwinner. In 2007, she and boyfriend Jojo got married, in a civil ceremony sponsored by their families and friends, as she was already pregnant. Jojo ran a neighborhood lugawan (rice porridge stall). Laarni tried to save what she could of her earnings along with Jojo’s income, but these were not enough for her childbirth.She often missed her monthly prenatal checkup at the Jose Fabella Hospital, about seven kilometers away, due to lack of money for tricycle and jeep fare. She also missed taking the vitamins prescribed for her and her child’s health. It is people like Laarni who desperately need government help, and whose situation the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals are trying to address by 2015.
On the right track?In 2001, Filipinos looked up to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the key to a better future as she stood in front of the historic EDSA Shrine to take her oath of office.At that time, hopes were high because she was replacing, through a second People Power revolt, an administration plagued with accusations of immorality and corruption. But after eight years in power, has she been able to provide the Filipinos the progress she promised? The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), in a 2007 report, believes the government is on track in meeting its goals in improving the lives of Filipinos. The UN Development Program (UNDP) has the same evaluation; on its Web site, it said the Philippines has made "encouraging strides" and the probability that it will meet its targets remains high. According to the latest figures from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), poverty has dropped from 45.3 per cent of the population in 1991 to 32.9 per cent in 2006.
Republic Act 8425, or the Social Reform and Poverty Alleviation Act, defines the poor as individuals and families with an income falling below the poverty threshold such that they cannot meet even minimum basic needs such as food, health, education, and housing. As of 2007, the NSCB said the national poverty threshold stood at P14,866 for a family of five per month, based on prevailing prices of food and services in the country. NEDA attributed the drop in the figures to government projects such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino, which provides P1,000 in cash to extremely poor households in exchange for compliance to certain responsibilities, such as sending their children to school. Secretary Domingo Panganiban, head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, says the efforts of the Arroyo administration to achieve poverty reduction are on the right track. “The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the Food for School Program, the distribution of access cards to ensure the poor access to rice at P18.25 a kilo, and the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program are all steps toward the reduction of hunger, unemployment and poverty," he said in a statement emailed to GMANews.TV. He cited the results of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) surveys for the second quarter of 2009, which indicated that many Filipinos consider the government as the second most reliable source of assistance after relatives. “This suffices as proof that the government’s poverty reduction programs have had a positive impact on the lives of the poor," Panganiban said.

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