On September 23, 2015, the AIM Rizalino S. Navarro Policy Center for Competitiveness (formerly AIM Policy Center), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held the policy symposium titled “Towards Zero Poverty: Pursuing Inclusive Development and Shared Prosperity” at the Palawan Ballroom, Edsa Shangri-la, Ortigas Center, Mandaluyong City. The Towards Zero Poverty Project is envisioned to contribute in crafting a sustained and accelerated poverty reduction strategy in the Philippines and this policy symposium served as the culminating event of the project.
The welcome address was delivered by the NEDA Director-General, Sec. Arsenio Balisacan. He stated the major challenges in promoting inclusive growth in the country and highlighted the need for evidence-based policies to address the binding constraints of the poor. The Plenary Session further contextualized the situation of poverty in the Philippines. In this session, Dr. Cielito Habito of the Ateneo de Manila University provided a review of country’s progress in the recent years, while also emphasizing the importance of promoting the pillars of inclusive growth. The first part of the morning session provided a brief yet relevant account of the general situation of poverty and growth in the country.
The second part of the morning session focused on the evidence-based policies for poverty reduction, delving into the issues of re-examination of food security and the promotion of high productivity across all sectors. Dean Dennis Mapa of the UP School of Statistics Dean commenced the discussion by providing evidence on the relationship between food inflation and employment with hunger incidence. His research concluded that poverty reduction can be slowed down by persistent shocks in food prices, particularly in rice. In relation to the major crop, Dr. Bruce Tolentino of the International Rice Research Institute focused on the constraints to the sustainable agricultural rice production in the Philippines. He found that the adaption of the rice sector to binding constraints has been exceptional, yet he also mentioned that the priority of policies should be on both the consumption and production aspect of the sector to improve the welfare of all, especially the poor farmers. Dr. Roehlano Briones of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, advanced the discussion further by laying out possible reforms on the rice sector. The key policy is to promote competitiveness in the sector to decrease the price of rice, while also supporting the farmers who may be adversely affected. Finally, Assistant Secretary Rafaelita Aldaba of the Department of Trade and Industry, talked about job creation and poverty reduction through the New Industrial Policy. She highlighted the need for structural transformation through the policy just as in the case of neigbouring countries in the region, to accelerate the generation of high quality employment. Dr. Emmanuel de Dios of the University of the Philippines School of Economics presided as the moderator of the panel and the open forum.
The afternoon session examined the role of government and the private sector in the quest for sustainable poverty reduction. This session was moderated by veteran journalist Mr. Coco Alcuaz. Senator Paolo “Bam” Benigno Aquino IV spoke on how good governance can be utilized to promote inclusive growth. He delved into the importance of crafting relevant laws such as the Philippine Competition Act and the Go Negosyo Act, which would allow the economy to experience the best growth and provide opportunities across all sectors. Department of Social Welfare and Development Undersecretary Angelita Gregorio-Medel underscored how social protection and human capital investment policies such as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and Sustainable Livelihood Programs advance inclusive development and growth in the country. Dr. William D. Dar, President of the Inanglupa Movement, Inc. laid out his vision for the new Philippine agriculture leading to poverty reduction, wherein both the private sector and government work hand in hand to modernize and industrialize the sector. Reinforcing the role of private sector, Mr. Peter Perfecto of the Makati Business Club tackled how the business community can create impact on the policy discussions of poverty. The panel capped off with an open forum also led by the moderator. The symposium was concluded by Mr. Ola Almgren, United Nations Resident Coordinator in the Philippines, who talked about how poverty alleviation should be at the center of any policy platform, as it is interconnected with achieving all the other Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The policy symposium was well-attended by participants in the private sector, government, civil society and academe and it served as the venue to engage various sectors for a more informed analysis on the issues of poverty and growth in the economy.