While there is no doubt many Filipinos are appreciative to be called one among the 14th happiest countries of the world they are not happy also with poor “life satisfaction rating.” Honestly speaking I am not happy too with this report; for how thruthful is it for millions of hungry Filipinos to be happy when everyday they feel the pain of an empty grinding stomach. Perhaps one must have said he is while hallucinating. Remember hunger can also induce one to hallucinate.
Latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Station revealed that 3.7 million Filipino families have been affected by involuntary hunger for the past three months. Also reported that severe hunger rose by 3 points in Mindanao from 2% in February to 4.7 percent in June. Surprisingly incident of severe hunger also rose in Metro-Manila from 5.0% to 7.0%.
But in terms of the overall incidence of hunger, it is “again highest in Mindanao as it rose sharply by 18 points from 11.7 percent (estimated 490,000 families) in February to 30.0 percent (estimated 1.3 million families) in June. ” Similarly the overall index of hunger rose by 5 points in Metro Manila from 17.3% (or estimated 430,000 families) to 22.3% (or estimated 550,000 families). Visayas increased also by 1 point from 19.7 percent (with estimated number of 730,ooo familes) to 21.0 percent (or with estimated 775,000 families).
So, what do these data tell us? Apparently, and it can’t be negated, that majority of the Filipinos remain to be poor. In fact they are not only poor but perhaps among the poorest and hungriest people in the world. Despite the poverty alleviation program of the Arroyo’s 9 years a administration, incidences of poverty and hunger remain high as shown in the surveys.
And who shall be, or what could be, pointed out as the culprit in the upsurge of poverty problems? Is it the poor themselves for choosing to be such; or the government for its inability to arrest these problems through more viable economic and social development programs; and, or the rapid population growth in the Philippines which makes every effort of the government to improve the flight of the poor impossible due to scarcity of resources?
It is ironic that the Philippines being rich with natural resources has its population going poor and hungry. Political analysts say it’s poor governmental management. It’s poor determination of priorities for socio-economic development programs and projects. There’s so much wastes in the use of government resources But critics of the government have a harder view of the issue; poverty and hunger in the Philippines is summed up into one particular problem -graft and corruption in the government. Is it? On several occasions international organizations acting as anti-corruption watcdogs have branded the Philippines as one of the most corrupt government in world. Something which the Arroyo administration contested to be untrue; in fact the government has never reneged nor inept in its ant-corruption drive. Is it not conducting a life-style check among the government officials?
The issue of poverty and hunger has resurfaced again when news circulated around that the president and her party had a dinner in a highly prestigious resturant (Le Cirque) in Manhattan New York. Details of the dinner (according to Mayor Binay of Makati citing on-line report) “11 bottles of Krug champagne priced at $510 per bottle; Osetra caviar ($1,400 for five ounces), a “Chef’s Tasting Menu” or wine paired with a dish for $4,500 for 25 orders, and a “three-course Chef’s Seasonal Menu worth $1,450 for 25 orders.” The president and her party were billed 20,000 dollars for the said dinner. Malacanang however said that it was just a simple dinner and claimed no taxpayer’s money was spent.
An aftermath of said report was followed with criticisms from various sectors. In fact the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism is asking can President Arroyo explain her wealth? Her declared wealth of P66.8 million in 2001 increased to P143.54 million in 2008 or a growth rate of (P76.74 million) 114 percent.
But setting aside all these reports which may undermine the credibility of the Arroyo’s administration, it still matters (worth knowing) to meaure how effective has president’ Gloria Macapagal Arroyo been in dealing with hunger and poverty in the country. Can someone say it by heart high, higher, highest? Or simply (and I’m afraid) others would be truthful to say it from “Poor to the Poorest.”