Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Poor Farmers Appeal for a Tractor

Posted by butalidnl on 7 December 2015

Palimbang (in Sultan Kudarat province) is a very poor town, with up to 45% of the people living below the poverty line. Its people have become poor because of war, and had lost hope.
The people of Palimbang have suffered a lot as a result of the Moro wars. The fighting made them evacuate repeatedly; harvests failed resulting in debts and eventual loss of the land. Also, a lot of land was left idle.
Since 2005, Pasali has been working with the people of Palimbang. It has undertaken projects in which Christian settlers, Moro, and indigenous Manobos worked together on projects to improve their lives. Pasali has set up water installations in some communities, helped Manobo children go to school, organizing the rice farmers into associations, and trained them on improved agricultural techniques. It also runs a modest pool of farm machinery: two hand tractors and a rice thresher.
Pasali has introduced the technology of SRI (System of Rice Intensification) which uses 50% less water, organic fertilizer and natural pest control; which costs less and has resulted in richer harvests. This would result in higher net incomes for farmers, and potentially could lift many of them from poverty.
In 2011, the Palimbang Tri-people Organic Farmers Association (PTOFA), asked Pasali to help them acquire farm machinery. Specifically, they needed a Tractor and a Rice Harvester, which can work on at least 125 hectares of land. The machines will be managed by PAIS (Pasali Agricultural Innovations and Services), PAIS is a social business, which will reinvest all of its profits in expanding its services. PAIS will train and manage the tractor operators, and ensure that it is maintained properly.
The combination of agricultural machinery and SRI technology will raise the yield per hectare from 40 cavans for traditional methods (which is what many poor farmers use) to 120 cavans (which PAIS has already attained on land it directly manages).
We are appealing to you to help acquire the Tractor for the poor farmers of Palimbang. Every contribution will help, no matter how small (minimum contribution is 5 Euros, but of course it could be more).
The Project’s link is at
Stichting Pasali

Posted in Pasali, Philippines, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

on Objections to RH Bill

Posted by butalidnl on 26 May 2011

The RH Bill debate is going strong. Anti-RH bill advocates are raising a lot of questions about the RH bill; some of which are valid questions (and some quite invalid).  I have listed down some of these questions, with some kind of response to them.

The RH Bill is against the will of God.
This is one of the more popular lines of attack of the CBCP. It is also the most flimsy. Because, if the RH bill is against the will of God, then why is it that it is supported by the Iglesia Ni Kristo and various Protestant churches? These groups even cite scripture as the basis for their position.  From this, we can say that the RH Bill is merely against the will of the CBCP, or at most the Vatican. This is much less than the will of God.

“Go forth and multiply…” This is supposed to be the basis for the Catholic position, if Manny Pacquiao and some others are to be believed. But if we look at the Bible, God only used such a formulation twice, both in Genesis. This was addressed first to Adam and Eve, and then to Noah’s family after the flood. In both occasions, the earth was empty, and needed to be filled in by humans. God did not repeat this statement at more recent occasions, particularly not during the New Testament.

RH Bill Won’t End Poverty.
Of course it won’t, it wasn’t meant to. The RH Bill addresses the problem of poor people getting even poorer because they bear too many children; or of families who become poor because they have too many children. The RH Bill is aimed at providing a basic service to society. It is similar to vaccination campaigns, or a firefighting service.

Too Expensive, No Money in Budget
The RH Bill is estimated to cost about P3 billion/year. This is not much, if compared to things like Congress’ pork barrel allocations, or GOCC bonuses. The RH Bill is only “too expensive” if your starting point is that it is not important. However, since reproductive health is a basic government service, money must be provided for it. In addition to RH being a basic service, it also protects basic women’s rights. It is essential.

It is actually cheaper, from the perspective of the national budget, to fund contraceptives and sex education, than to spend for having too many children. Children of the poor go to public schools (and some even go on to state universities); they would need health services, and some poor families get subsidies on rice and other things. These cost much more than the RH bill will.

Sex Education will Encourage Promiscuity
The experience in other countries show that sex education actually delays the age when a teenager has his/her first sexual act. Perhaps this is because if they have had sex education, they know the consequences of sex, and are less curious about it.  “Sex Ed” from porn is not sex ed; porn doesn’t explain sexuality at all. If we deprive teenagers of sex ed, they will resort to porn for whatever information on sex they can get from it.

Some parents are afraid that teachers would explain “too much” or be “to eager” when they give sex ed. I disagree.  In 1972, when I was at my 2nd year in high school in Cebu, we had lessons on the human reproductive system. I remember that our teacher taught it as if it was just another topic. For teachers, sex ed is just another topic – they will teach it in a matter-of-fact or even boring way. Parents have nothing to worry about.

RH Bill Promotes Abortion
This is easy to answer: it does not. In fact, the RH bill categorically states that it is against abortion.  Any abortifacient contraceptives (e.g. “morning after” pill) can be designated as such in the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the RH Bill and prohibited. And if needed, the CBCP could sue in court to remove a contraceptive from the list of approved contraceptives if they are proved to be abortifacient.

In a way, those who oppose the RH Bill are the ones promoting abortion. Because many women don’t know how to avoid pregnancy, about 100,000 a year abort their pregnancies. And 1000 Filipinas a year die of abortion-related complications. If  these women had sex education, they wouldn’t have gotten pregnant in the first place, and thus they wouldn’t have been forced to resort to abortion. Sex Education reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies, and thus of abortion.

Why not include a list of Contraceptives which are not Abortifacient?
Contraceptives in general do not cause abortion. Almost by definition, since they prevent pregnancies, they have nothing to do with abortion. If there are contraceptives that do cause abortion, these should be specified and prohibited, but in the law’s Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR). Including them in the IRR would make it more flexible – so that the list could be expanded (or shortened) based on further developments and research, without having to amend the whole law.

Sex Education Should Teach Values

I agree. But the question is: which values would that be? In some places in the US, they experimented with teaching sex ed using the “abstain from sex” approach. In other words, they taught teenagers merely not to have sex. And since they shouldn’t have sex, they didn’t teach birth control. Well, the result was that these teenagers ended up having as much sex as those without sex education, and they didn’t know how to avoid pregnancy. This shows that a “no sex” approach to sex education doesn’t work.

On the other hand, the approach could be what is called the “ABC” approach. A, for abstinence. B, for “be faithful” (hopefully, referring to married couples). And C, “use contraceptives”, for those who can’t abstain nor be faithful. There are still values taught here: children are taught to abstain or be faithful as earlier options to having sex.

Posted in Philippine economics, Philippine education, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Pantawid Pamilya

Posted by butalidnl on 12 September 2010

The Philippine government is expanding the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, the cash support program for the poorest families, from the present 900,000 to 2.3 million by the end of 2011. This program is aimed at the poorest families (from the poorest provinces) in the country, in an effort of helping them out of poverty. [ see 1M Poor Families to get Govt Cash Aid ]

Families in this program receive Php 500 each month, plus Php 300 for each child (for up to 3 children). They  should comply with the following requirements to stay in the program:

  • Children 6 to 14 years old must be enrolled in school and attend at least 85 percent of the classes.
  • Pregnant women must receive prenatal and postnatal care.
  • Parents must attend Family Development Sessions.
  • Children under 5 years of age must receive regular preventive health checkups and vaccinations.
  • Children in elementary schools must receive deworming treatment at least twice a year.

This program has proven effective in ensuring that children do go to school and the families avail of health facilities. In the long run, this program will help these families to overcome poverty.

Possible Pitfalls
At the same time, however, we should be aware of possible pitfalls of this program. The first of these would be corruption. Corruption is a danger, especially since this program has a subjective element to it. After all, not everyone can join it. There is an amount of discretion by the DSWD personnel as to whom to include, and whom not to include. There is room for possible corruption; people could be asked to pay to get included in the list. Or, to pay to avoid getting taken off the list.

The government should take steps to avoid too much discretion at the hands of DSWD personnel. Strict rules about including people, or taking them out of the program, should be set; including a rule that requires at least two people to approve such a change of status. Personnel assigned to certain groups of clients should be changed regularly(perhaps once a year). And, a system of feedback by the recipients should be implemented.

The beneficiaries are given an ATM card, so that they could withdraw their allotments monthly, without intervention of other people. This is one less chance for corruption. However, what about families who live where there are no ATMs in the vicinity? Should they go to the nearest city, in order to find an ATM?

The cash transfer itself is not the only expense of the program. The government should also ensure that other facilities are available. Obviously, there needs to be enough places in the schools where the beneficiaries are. There is also a need to ensure that there are enough nurses or doctors to help with pre-natal examinations, vaccinations and deworming. And there need to be enough DSWD personnel to manage the whole system. These are expenses outside the formal program of Pantawid Pamilya, but they are essential for its success.

The payments are given to the wife/mother, and not the husband/father, and this is a good thing. The wife/mother tends to put the family’s needs first; while many husbands/fathers get tempted to drink or gamble away their money.  Perhaps a good side effect of the program will be that it upgrades the status of the wife/mother within the family.

Better than Subsidies
The Pantawid Pamilya program is much more effective than subsidies on “basic necessities” aimed at helping poor people.  Take the subsidy on rice: it is full of possibilities for corruption, and is inefficient.  At numerous points, there is an opportunity for corruption: wholesale and retail buying of rice, storage of rice, transport of rice, identifying beneficiaries, actual distribution of rice,  etc.

The rice subsidy is inefficient in that it requires a lot of people to implement it, and it in effect duplicates what private traders do – buy, store and distribute rice. It also distorts the market: sellers have “unfair competition from cheaper rice”, which may be sold below their cost price.  It also forces down the farm-gate price for palay, reducing farmers’ incomes.

A conditional cash transfer program (the Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program, in our case), on the other hand, does not have these problems. The poor have the freedom to spend the money as they need to, and there is no distortion of markets.  And they are required to keep their children in school and avail of health facilities. Education and health for the children will help a lot towards them overcoming poverty when they grow up. And since the family has a regular source of income, no matter that it is not fully sufficient for the family’s monthly expenses, helps a lot in making the family have good patterns of expenditures. A regular income will help keep them from having to rely on loan sharks, for instance.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is a good program of the government that should indeed be expanded. I hope that the government even goes beyond the target of 2.6 million beneficiaries.

[see also Just Give Money to the Poor ]

Posted in Philippine economics, Philippine education, Philippines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »