President Aquino shocked by rising poverty

MANILA, April 8, 2011 (AFP) – Philippine President Benigno Aquino expressed disbelief on Friday after a survey found that a growing number of people were experiencing hunger and poverty under his administration.

Aquino said the nationwide survey, conducted from March 4-7 by the respected Social Weather Stations research group, did not reflect the reports he was getting from government agencies and the business community.

“Why is it like this when the labor department says more people are getting jobs and the business community is reporting that they are hiring more people?” Aquino said to reporters.

“I cannot reconcile this,” he added.

The survey found that 20.5 percent of respondents experienced hunger in the past three months while 51 percent considered themselves to be poor, according to the Social Weather Stations website.

This was a sharp reversal from the 15.9 percent who reported hunger and the 48 percent who rated themselves as poor in a similar survey conducted in September, 2010 – the first since Aquino took office in June.

The Social Weather Stations, which surveyed 1,200 adults, did not say why the number of people who considered themselves poor and hungry was rising.

Aquino said the survey may have been “skewed” as it did not fully capture those who had benefited from a Brazilian-style government “conditional cash transfer” program for the poor instituted earlier this year.

The cash transfers went to the 400,000 poorest families in less-developed areas of the central and southern Philippines but the survey relied mostly on respondents from Manila and surrounding areas, he said.

Aquino said an additional 1.3 million families would be added to the cash transfer program in the coming weeks.

Shortly after Aquino took office, his government said he hoped to cut the number of people living on a dollar a day or less to 16 percent of the population by 2015.

Just over 23 million Filipinos – or 26.5 percent of the population – survived on 46.14 pesos (1.04 dollars) a day or less, according to a government survey in 2009.

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