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Zamboanga Peninsula Region

PIA Press Release
Wednesday, November 03, 2010

More still needs to be done for the poor, says DSWD exec

Zamboanga City (3 November) -- "More is still left to be done," asserts DSWD Regional Director Teodulo Romo during the agency's Regional General Assembly held at the Grand Astoria Hotel in Zamboanga City last October 13, 2010.

"We have seen that many still suffer from deprivation, and we take this as a challenge to better improve our way of doing things," said Director Romo.

Region IX has been noted as one of the areas in the country lacking in basic infrastructures such as water systems, school buildings, health stations, and even passable roads. Still, many families are living below the poverty threshold because of the lack of economic opportunities.

Not just poor, but starving

"Some are suffering from starvation, and they have no means to provide for their own basic needs."

The SWS estimates that as of June 2010, about 4.0 million Filipino families suffer from hunger. Moreover, the proportion of poor Filipinos is seen to be increasing as a result of the global financial crisis, and natural calamities such as the typhoons that recently struck the country.

'Historical' 125% budget increase for DSWD

To address the plight of the poor Filipinos, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has increased the budget of the DSWD to a record-breaking 125%, an act that was never done before in the history of the department. The budget has gone to a lofty Php31.4 Billion. A majority of this amount (Php21.2 Billion) will be used to provide a conditional cash transfer (CCT) for extremely poor families who presently have very little or no capacity to provide for themselves. But the budget covers more than just that.

Various Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have openly expressed their support to the budget increase. They published a statement entitled "As More Filipinos Go Hungry and Fall into Poverty, the Pro-Poor programs in the President's Budget for 2011 should be Supported, not Attacked" officially emphasizing their support.

Nevertheless, the budget was "attacked" and intensely deliberated, particularly by the House of Representatives. However, upon clarifications made by Secretary Corazon J. Soliman at the plenary, the budget was approved, without cuts.

"The agency is glad about the House's decision on approving the budget. This, more than anything, will address the current issues that our poor families are facing. They need as much intervention as necessary now more than ever," said Director Romo.

A 'convergence' of efforts

Meanwhile, Secretary Soliman has recently called for a transformation within the agency. The primary goal is to enhance its service delivery for the poor and marginalized sectors of society.

This transformation is known as the "convergence", mainly referring to the three anti-poverty programs such as KALAHI-CIDSS, 4Ps (CCT), and the SEA-K (livelihood assistance). The three programs have been working independently for the past years. The Secretary has noted that these programs working independently can have negative implications on the poverty reduction efforts of the agency.

Replication and duplication of efforts were seen. In a worst-case scenario, the programs, instead of complementing each other, may even compete, causing a crash in the poverty alleviation system of government.

"The DSWD is currently in a phase of transition. For a true convergence to happen, we have to start within ourselves first," explains DSWD Assistant Secretary Camilo Gudmalin during the regional assembly in Zamboanga City.

The DSWD is currently undergoing an overhaul. The huge budget granted cannot be put to risk in the Filipinos' struggle against poverty. But they key word here is optimism, and the willingness to adapt to change.

"We have seen a lot of changes over the years. We have noted the need to strengthen drives to ease the burden of the poor Filipinos. This budget is our opportunity, and it is our personal mission to see to it that our struggling brothers and sisters will be given a chance to cross the bridge to a bright future," said Assistant Secretary Gudmalin.

The 4Ps, or the conditional cash transfer grants cash aid to extremely poor families to give them the capacity to send children to school, provide for health services, and their basic needs.

KALAHI-CIDSS is designed to empower poor communities through their active participation in the identification and implementation of developmental and infrastructure projects, while SEA-K provides livelihood assistance to the poor who wish to engage in economic activities for a sustainable income. (DSWD-PIA ZC)

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