Header MBV Logo
Columns Banner MB2 v3

Winning the War

Finance Secretary Ralph Recto recently proclaimed that due to “the continued improvements in the country’s jobs market and quality of jobs for Filipinos” the country is progressing towards “achieving the government’s target of reducing the poverty rate to single-digit or nine percent by 2028.”


In fact, that poverty reduction target set by the administration of President Bongbong Marcos at the beginning of his term might be achievable “sooner than expected” according to my good friend Sec. Recto, who I might say, is doing a terrific job managing the Finance portfolio. He cited the World Bank report “East Asia and the Pacific Economic Update” which also maintained its economic growth forecast for the Philippines for this year at 5.8 percent and to 5.9 percent in the next two years.


During his inauguration and in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) President Marcos declared his government’s goal of cutting poverty incidence to a single digit or nine percent by 2028, translating to about 14 million people lifted out of poverty.

The February 2024 Labor Force Survey (LFS) noted that our unemployment rate dropped to 3.5 percent from 4.8 percent in the same month last year, translating to only 1.8 million unemployed individuals  -- the second-lowest number recorded ever. More importantly, the report showed that people are engaged in more quality jobs as underemployment continues to drop to 12.4 percent in February 2024 compared to 12.9 percent in February 2023. What this means is that more and more Filipinos are getting employed and getting better jobs. This would translate to better incomes for Filipino families.

This is a very welcome development not only because of my friendship with my Congressional batch mate and Wednesday Group co-founder but also because fighting poverty has been a life-long obsession of mine. At an early age I battled poverty in order to help my family and when I ran and won in 1992, I focused my energies on policies and legislation designed to alleviate poverty. I remember we launched a program, Manpower on Wheels, which literally took the fight to end poverty in the streets of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa (my constituencies at that time).

I have always said, and I continue to believe in this — economic growth must redound to the benefit of the poor. Any growth, to be genuinely meaningful, must be inclusive, that no one, absolutely no one, is left behind when the economy improves.


We need to ensure that the poor would directly feel the country’s economic progress. Oftentimes, the government harps about growth statistics and yet many Filipinos still suffer from extreme poverty and experience hunger. It is not enough for us to achieve glowing numbers or ratings, it is important that our people feel the effects of high economic growth. I remember saying this during the many campaigns I launched in my 21 years in politics: “Dapat malapit sa bituka ng mga tao lalong-lalo na doon sa mga walang maihain sa hapag-kainan nila. Walang pakialam ang mga ito sa mga statistics or figures, gusto nila actual results.”

That is why the jobs report is significant. It translates to more Filipinos getting jobs that pay better. That means they have more spending power not only to put food on the table and pay for daily expenses but also to provide for wants or the occasional splurges. I know some people would tell us to only focus on our needs and not the wants. But from time to time it is nice to be bale to splurge on your kids. And that is only possible if we can give Filipinos better paying jobs.

That is what needs to happen if and when the World Bank projection materializes — that the country would cut its poverty incidence to 9.3 percent in 2026. That data should be felt by Filipinos. That should translate to more Filipinos feeling that they are no longer poor. That should translate to more Filipinos having enough income they no longer need to worry about the next meal, or their kids’ baon, or the next bill they need to pay.

I hope the World Bank is right. I hope my dear friend Ralph is right. As the popular Filipino idiom puts it: “Mag dilang anghel nawa kayo.”




Manila Bulletin/Views/MannyVillar