Mong Palatino

Blogging about the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific since 2004


@mongster is a Manila-based activist, former Philippine legislator, and blogger/analyst of Asia-Pacific affairs.

There are 27.6 million poor Filipinos in 2006, 12.8 million or 47 percent are children 15 years old and below. This was revealed in a study commissioned by the United Nations Children’s Fund and conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, a government agency. The results of the study were reported to the public on September 2010.

Rural poverty has worsened in the past decade. There are 9 million poor children living in the rural areas. Meanwhile, fisherfolk and farmers belong to the poorest sectors in society. The poverty rate is highest in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (69.3 percent) while the National Capital Region only registered 15.8 percent. It’s clear that the uneven or lopsided development in the country has exacerbated income inequality in the regions.

Discrimination against poor children starts at birth. Out of 2.6 million unregistered children, 70 percent are found in ARMM, Eastern Visayas, Central Mindanao, Western Mindanao, and Southern Mindanao. Parents usually complain against the high cost of birth registration and distance of their homes to the nearest registration centers.

Children living in houses made of makeshift materials are considered deprived of shelter. Despite the claim of the government that it has already addressed the issue, the study found that 2.2 percent of Filipino children are still without decent shelter. Metro Manila alone has 78,000 children under this category. High incidences of children living in informal settlements are also found in Cotabato City and Maguindanao. Most probably they are bakwit children.

There are 246,011 street children, or those who stay in the streets and public areas for at least four hours daily. This figure comprises 3 percent of the population aged 0-17 years old. Unsurprisingly, Metro Manila has the most number of highly visible street children at 11,346.

In 2006, there were 3.4 million children who have no access at all to a toilet facility of any kind. For the 8.6 million children who suffer from sanitation deprivation, it’s definite that they are not part of the #itsmorefun cheering crowd of the tourism department. Unless of course there are insensitive souls who are promoting slum tourism – ‘slumdog millionaires’ Philippine version.

Water access has improved although there are still waterless municipalities. A country surrounded by water yet many people can’t drink clean water? Water access remains a priority concern in regions like ARMM, and the Zamboanga Peninsula where 34 and 21 percent of children, respectively; are severely
deprived of water.

Filipino children suffer too from malnutrition. Malnourished children have declined over the years but the number went up in 2008. Children suffering from thinness rose from 5 percent in 1989 to 6.1 percent in 2008. Curiously, overweight children represent 2 percent of total children population in the country.

Because of malnutrition and their poor living conditions, many children suffer from disabilities. It is estimated that 20 percent of approximately 200,000 Filipinos with disabilities are children. The government’s health care program has failed to provide adequate immunization, vitamin supplementation, nutrition education, prenatal and postnatal care to Filipino families. Will the government fulfill its commitment to use the revenue windfall from higher sin taxes to improve the delivery of health services?

Education targets are part of the global Millennium Development Goals. Sadly, there is a low probability that the Philippines will achieve the desired outcomes on time. In 2002, there were 1.8 million children aged 6-16 who failed to enroll in school primarily because of lack of personal interest and high cost of education. But by 2007, the number rose to 2.2 million. Drop out rates are alarming, especially in the early grade levels. Net enrolment has decreased from 90.3 percent in 2002 to 84.8 percent in 2007. According to the study, Western Visayas registered the lowest enrolment rate in the country. This is quite a mystery since West Visayas is a known education hub.

Cases handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development in 2006-2007 also went up from 6,606 to 7,182. Most cases involved child abuse, neglect, trafficking, and child labor. But the number could be higher because many cases of abuse are underreported.

Today, the Department of Labor and Employment released the results of a survey which showed that there are 5.59 million children at work, 3.028 million are considered child laborers and 2.993 million are reported to be working in hazardous conditions. These are very alarming numbers and they highlight the ‘heinous crimes’ committed by the state against Filipino children. The crimes pertain to the lack of social services and welfare programs provided to children.

The Philippines is a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other international instruments that aim to promote the welfare of children. There is a popular initiative to build child-friendly governments especially at the local level. But these laws and programs have not succeeded in eliminating the various forms of abuse, poverty and deprivation experienced by many children.

Strong economic fundamentals are irrelevant if they do not lead to the improvement of lives of the people, especially the children. GDP growth is meaningless if not accompanied by real and sustained changes in the living conditions of the poor. Children are among the poorest sub-sectors in society and their marginalization is often overlooked by politicians who prefer to articulate the issues of voters instead of crying minors.

There are many indicators used by mainstream economists to prove that the government’s poverty alleviation programs are working. Another way of measuring the effectivity of these programs is to highlight the situation of Filipino children. Children who are healthy, living in a decent shelter, attending a school, participating in community events, and happily involved in leisure or fun activities – these are the minimum standards that we as a nation should meet for the benefit of our children.

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2 Responses to “Poverty and Children”

  1. “Who Here Wants to Be a Teacher?”
    This question was raised by Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg to a group of senior high school students in Manhattan (New York Times, 2011). 2 out of the 15 students raised their hands. In Finland, according to Sahlberg, the number would be about twice as much and with greater enthusiasm. He also noted that being admitted to a teacher education program in Finland is more difficult than getting into either law or medicine.
    To read more:

    Angel C. de Dios

  2. Philippines is undeniably one of the struggling nations because of too much population that eventually defines poverty. Poverty is equal to too much population. Government has to do something about this over population. Parents have to at least get common sense from their own daily life. Life is difficult they would admit yet they still keep on breeding thoughtlessly without even asking themselves whether their “unborn” children want to witness and experience the same “horror” they are facing and trying to overcome themselves.

    It’s time for the government to implement a no child or 1 child policy. Rational people would agree to me that everyone will be better off with less population and better environment to live in.

    Stop breeding, I should say. Advocate adoption. There are so many children out there waiting to be “home”. There is really no need for “you” to breed your own.


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