A recent survey carried out in the Philippines estimates that four million households have suffered from hunger over the past three months. The Social Weather Survey was conducted in four places, Manila, Balance Luzon, Visayas and the island of Mindanao, and found that of the 1,200 heads of household interviewed, 21% admitted to experiencing hunger at least once. This is the third consecutive quarter, when the percentage recorded was over 20%.
Filipinos have recently voted in a new president, Benigno Aquino, on June 30th. He is the son of Cory Aquino, venerated by many Filipinos because in 1986 she brought an end to the reign of the dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, with her people-powered revolution and restored democracy to the country.
In his inauguration speech, Mr Aquino spoke of his parents wish to bring ‘democracy, peace and prosperity’ to the Philippines. And to echo the first revolution, the new president has promised to tackle corruption and end the government’s insensitivity to “the suffering of the people”. According to data from the UN, a third of Filipinos manage on less than one dollar per day.
Economic growth in the Philippines has averaged 4.5% each year since 2001. But despite this growth, unemployment is rising (reaching 7.5% in 2009) and poverty has worsened, with a high population growth rate (of nearly 2%) and an inequitable distribution of the country’s wealth.
The new president has said he aims to address poverty in the Philippines, particularly by tackling corruption. Whatever happens with the promised investigations into corruption, help for the poor has already been promised. The Department of Social Welfare has said it is looking into giving conditional cash transfers to poor families.
Funds would come from a 71 million dollar programme originally set up to feed school children, but scrapped earlier in the year when it was found that many students who weren’t poor were receiving the aid.
Details on how this money will be spent are expected when the president gives his first state of the nation address on 26 July. Given the popularity of Mr Aquino’s victory, ordinary Filipinos will be investing their hopes in the next six years of his government.
With literacy rates of 93%, many Filipinos opt to find work abroad. But with better governance and the fostering of improved trade and employment opportunities, more Filipinos may choose to stay at home and believe that life in the Philippines can improve, particularly for its poorest citizens.