By Daine Mariel Chua

The country’s poverty incidence increased to 18.1% or 19.9 million Filipinos in 2021 as the COVID-19 pandemic and a ‘not anticipated’ inflation uptrend impacted the economy, exceeding the country’s target range, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported.

Photo Courtesy of Eloisa Lopez/Reuters/AFP

In the preliminary result of the Family Income Expenditure Survey (FIES) released on Monday, August 15, PSA interpreted that more Filipinos are slipping below the poverty line as the figures are higher than reported 16.7% or 17.67 million in 2018.

This further surpassed the country’s target range of 15.5% to 17.5% of the population who cannot sufficiently meet their individual basic food and non-food needs, based on the definition of poverty incidence.

Moreover, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan pointed out the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy track during 2021 as one of the reasons the country’s poverty worsened.

The brought limitations and restrictions on employment affected not only the poverty incidence but the subsistence incidence hitting 5.9%, meaning 6.55 million Filipinos suffer from insufficient income to avail of basic food necessities.

The recorded numbers were up from 5.2%, equivalent to 5.54 million Filipinos in 2018.

On the same note, the economic recession also deepened the struggle to get the poor population out of poverty as the FIES reported that the country’s income gap spiked to 22.6% in 2021, up from 21.7% in 2018.

The heightened income gap resulted in a higher family budget required per month to attain basic needs costing an average of ₱12,030 and to meet food necessities of ₱8,379 in 2021 compared to ₱10,756 and ₱7,533 recorded in 2018, respectively.

Given the data, PSA concluded that each family needs ₱2,719 additional income per month to successfully escape the poverty threshold.

Apart from the pandemic, Balisacan also mentioned that the government faced challenges with the inflation uptrend of the country,  making it harder to achieve basic needs.

“The previous administration did not anticipate the kind of inflation we have today,” Balisacan said.

Despite the unexpected inflation, Balisacan assured that resolving the issue is in the current administration’s plans, such as the objective to reduce poverty incidence to 9% by the end of its term.

The agenda will aid the Bangsamoro Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) as the region with the highest poverty incidence and help other regions join the National Capital Region (NCR), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), Central Luzon, and CALABARZON in the areas with the lowest poverty incidence.

Edited by Nehmia Elyxa Relano