What happened to poverty, Mayor Isko? | Inquirer Opinion
Social Climate

What happened to poverty, Mayor Isko?

/ 05:04 AM September 21, 2019

That last Wednesday’s monthly dinner of the Foundation for Economic Freedom (of which I am a founding member) was the best attended in its history was due, of course, to the guest speaker being the honorable Isko Moreno Domagoso, the new mayor of the City of Manila.

Mayor Isko, aka Yorme, is the rock star among the winners in the May 2019 elections. He said that he has had courtesy calls from 14 ambassadors already. The video of the FEF event, posted live on his Facebook page, had 97,200 views and 6,100 likes by Thursday afternoon.


After his speech, the Yorme revealed to the FEF crowd, without prodding, that he has been an SWS client for many years. He visits SWS, sans fanfare or advance notice, to review his commissioned surveys.

My advice to him is to be very cautious in relying on statistics of the national government, and thus avoid being fed with misleading pictures of poverty and other vital social conditions of the Manileños.


In the National Capital Region, official poverty among families was only 4.9 percent, and official subsistence incidence, i.e. “food-poverty,” was only 1.6 percent, in 2018S1 (semester 1, the latest available). Official data cited here are from “Proportion of poor Filipinos registered at 21.0 percent in the First Semester of 2018,” 4/10/2019, https://psa.gov.ph/poverty-press-releases/nid/138411.

But, in the past few years, Self-Rated Poverty in NCR has been in the 30s (31 percent last June) and Self-Rated Food Poverty has been in the 20s (22 percent in June). SWS figures cited here are from “2nd Quarter 2019 Social Weather Survey: Self-Rated Poverty and Self-Rated Food Poverty bounce up,” www.sws.org.ph, 7/20/19.

This means that six times as many NCR families feel poor, and over 10 times as many feel their food is poor, compared to those classified as poor by the Philippine Statistics Authority. The official poverty figures are staggeringly unrealistic.

In the City of Manila specifically, the officially poor are only 5.7 percent, and the officially food-poor are only 2.1 percent, of all families. Officially, the poverty problem in Manila seems solved already!

Interestingly, the PSA’s last two reports show that the official percentage of poor families declined in all regions of the Philippines, except for NCR, where it rose from 4.6 in 2015(S1) to 4.9 in 2018(S1). The SWS poverty surveys agree that, between those points, the national trend was down but the NCR trend was up.

For 2015 and 2018, PSA has separate poverty estimates for four districts of NCR. In District 1 (Manila by itself), the official percentage of poor families rose from 4.0 to 5.7. Was this a factor in Isko Moreno’s victory over Erap Estrada?

In District 2 (Mandaluyong, Marikina, Pasig, Quezon City and San Juan put together), the percentage fell from 3.9 to 3.5; this was the sole exception among the four districts. In District 3 (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas and Valenzuela), it rose from 6.5 to 8.1. In District 4 (Las Piñas, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay, Pateros and Taguig), it rose from 3.8 to 3.9.


The PSA poverty figures for 2018 were released on April 10, 2019, only a month before the May elections, too late to help any candidate. The next PSA poverty reference year is not until 2021, with findings to be released by 2022, too late to help any incumbent mayor.

My advice to local governments is: Produce your own statistics, with your own standards; don’t be dependent on the national government.

Contact [email protected]

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TAGS: foundation for economic freedom, Isko Moreno, MANILA, Poverty
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