National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) secretary Liza Maza on Thursday called for an end to the “piece-meal approach to poverty reduction” practiced by past administrations and moved for the resumption of peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“We have long known that majority of Filipinos are poor. This is no longer debatable. The question is why are so many of us poor?” Maza said.
She added that past administrations have failed to address this basic question and thus adopted programs and projects that address poverty on a piece-meal basis.
“This piece-meal approach has proven inept in uprooting poverty at its source. It failed to recognize that poverty is rooted in underdevelopment, inequality, and injustice. Thus, we see poverty fester and grow, giving rise to an armed conflict that has marched through generations of Filipinos across the decades,” Maza explained.
She further mentioned that as the principal government agency tasked to exercise policy oversight of the government’s anti-poverty programs, NAPC “shall push for policy recommendations designed to widen the share of economic and political power of farmers, workers, fisherfolk, OFWs—the productive, but marginalized sectors of our society.”
According to Maza, NAPC policy recommendations shall center on three main areas: (1) genuine agrarian reform and rural development; (2) national industrialization; and (3) move for the resumption of the peace negotiations between the government (GRP) and the National Democratic Front (NDF).
“Genuine agrarian reform is the key to food security, sustainable agriculture, and rural development,” she said, adding that,“Philippine agriculture remains backward despite the agrarian reform programs implemented by the previous administrations. These failed programs have helped to perpetuate an inter-generational cycle of poverty and hunger among the rural population, even as they render rural development programs ineffective.”
Maza said there was need for a genuine agrarian reform program that will not only indiscriminately redistribute all lands but more importantly institutionalize a program of state support and subsidy to reform beneficiaries in all aspects of agricultural production.
“Both the government and the NDF recognize the link between poverty—most especially in the rural areas—and armed conflict. In fact, the most substantive agenda in the stalled GRP-NDF peace talks is the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms or CASER,” Maza said.
Agreements in the CASER document states that agrarian reform will lay the foundation for national industrialization, which can be attained by developing and acquiring the capacity to produce consumer, immediate, and capital goods, she explained.
“National industrialization, on the other hand, will progress from low-technology labor intensive production to high technology capital-intensive production, providing full employment and an increase in real wages and incomes,” Maza said.
The end result is an improved standard of living and the potential to eradicate poverty by reducing inequality, she added.
The NAPC lead convenor said their agency aims to transform poverty reduction into a mass movement, adding that more than 70% of the poor live in the rural areas. “These are our marginalized farmers, agricultural workers, lumads, and fisherfolk,” Maza said.
“The crucial point in this campaign to reduce poverty is people's participation. It is high time for Filipinos to make sure that government is addressing the needs of the marginalized, since this will lead to development that is sustainable and long-lasting. Everyone benefits when poverty is genuinely reduced,” she added.