Although poverty eradication has emerged as the top priority of the Philippine government since the 1980s, factors such as the rising population, and the slumping economy amidst political struggles in the late 1980s, kept the goal an elusive dream for the Philippine government, and for millions of vulnerable Filipinos.
But with the introduction of the MDG's there were major improvements observed in reducing poverty. Table 1 shows that over the span of 12 years, "subsistence poverty declined from 20.4 percent in 1991 to 16% in 2000 and down to 12.15% in 2003" (Philippines Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals, 2003, p.2). Table 2 also shows much promise in lowering the proportion of the population below the poverty line (i.e. per capita income < $1 a day). From a high of 45% in 1991, it went down to 33% in 2000. According to the "latest official data from the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the data was at 30.4% by 2003, midway through the timeline for the MDGs and ahead of the 22.65% target" (Virola, 2006).
Despite the positive result in the present ratios, several issues still remain to be taken in hand. For instance, poverty incidence in the Philippines is largely concentrated in the rural areas and in Visayas and Southern Mindanao. The Philippines Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals (2003, p.2) noted that "about 78.8 percent of the food-poor families live in the rural areas...rural poverty remained high between 1991 (55.1%) and 2000 (54.5%). Urban poverty has been reduced by almost one third as of the year 2000, from 35.6 percent in 1991."
In terms of poverty concentration by region, 65.2% of the population in Central Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is classified as poor. Bicol and most regions in the Visayas and Mindanao viz. Central Mindanao, CARAGA, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Western Mindanao also have poverty rates considerably higher than the national average. Furthermore, Table 3 shows reveal that the Gini coefficient has remained high at 0.48 in 2000 which makes income inequality still a huge part of the problem (Philippine National Statistics Office, 2004).
The present Philippine administration is committed to win the war against poverty. The Arroyo administration has outlined a "comprehensive set of policies and programs directly aimed at addressing the needs of the poor, under the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2001-04. The core strategies are: 1) Macroeconomic stability with equitable growth based on free enterprise; 2) Agricultural and fisheries modernization with social equity; 3) Comprehensive human development and protecting the vulnerable; and 4) Good governance and the rule of law" (Philippines Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals, 2003, p.14)
The centrepiece of the government's Anti-Poverty Agenda is known as KALAHI or "Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan" (Linking Arms Against Poverty) Program, a community- driven development project that aims to improve the access to social services (low-cost, productive infrastructure such as roads, water systems, clinics, and schools), empowerment of the people through strengthening the community participation in local governance, and the management of resources. Since its inception, the project has seen