By Virginia Jasmin Pasalo
LAST week, I described my experience passing through a nearby barangay on social media:
“More and more children are on the streets demanding money and sometimes tugging at my bag. I hesitate to open my purse, and I feel guilty doing this, but at the back of my mind, some syndicate will soon get their hands to whatever I give them.
Today, I passed a street family beside 7-11 Malingap in a make shift cart selling cigarettes, balut (boiled fertilized duck’s egg), candies, and other things, with their children all over the street. The two youngest were without trousers, exposing their vital parts to the elements. They are present intermittently, at various hours of the day, to avoid detection by those monitoring the area. On the opposite side of the street is a man I see every day, with two dogs tied to a tree guarding his temporary dwelling. Nobody seems to mind that he has taken up residence against the wall, encroaching on the sidewalk, that has also been encroached upon by cars who used them as parking spaces.”
This case is not isolated. Fe Mangahas observed “same problem along Timog beside Victoria Towers and premises of St. Paul the Apostle Parish Church… kailangan ng ID system sa mga ganitong urban poor, hard data (saan galing, bakit sila nagkaganito, etc. at alamin kung paano sila matutulungan… attention DSWD, bbarangay, simbahan, etc.”
In fact, street families have now become a national phenomenon and remain a challenge to the institutions mandated to deal with them. The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has expanded the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, but street families cannot meet the qualifications to become part of this program.
Roy Gacasan commented “We are approaching 30% of the population living below the poverty index. Sad indeed. Sustainable Agribiz is the key solution… not mega shopping malls. Food production to fill up stomachs, & affordable housing for all will make the economy turnover in a sure & steady streaming. Easy! We can do it!”
The World Bank recommends a similar policy direction in a recent report entitled Making Growth Work for the Poor: A Poverty Assessment for the Philippines. This report observed that 22 million, more than one-fifth of the Filipino population still live below the national poverty line, mainly because of “less pro-poor pattern of growth; high inequality of income and opportunities; and the adverse impacts of natural disasters and conflict.”
Inclusive growth has been a battle cry to reduce poverty but this is next to impossible without policies that address the redistribution of wealth and investment in human capital in sectors that need them most. The exploitation of natural resources like mining and big palm oil plantations only make profit for the few who could not care less about the degradation of the environment that directly displaces cultural communities and pushes them to urban centers where they sleep on the streets, their children begging with envelopes in passenger jeepneys.
“Why are you poor?” is a question that cannot be dismissed with a quick answer like “Kasi tamad kayo!” (Because you are lazy!). The present system is harsh, and it affects 22 million Filipinos, and they are not all lazy.
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