In Focus Archived (January 2014)

INFOCUS: Environment and natural resources management

The area of environment and natural resources is often overlooked as developing countries like the Philippines place more priority on economic expansion. The Aquino II administration has nonetheless made integrity of the environment and climate change mitigation and adaptation a budget priority. Last year, it pledged to ensure the enforcement of environmental laws and standards, the protection and enhancement of forest cover, adoption of energy efficient lighting in government offices, and the rehabilitation of esteros. This year, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the 10th largest department in terms of budget allocation, at PHP23.7 billion.

Given limited resources, its important to know which environmental projects work and dont work. A new study by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Danilo Israel, for instance, sought to find out whether the reforestation program of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had attained its objectives over the years and had helped mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on the forests and the natural environment. Results showed that replanting targets were partially attained, and there has been relative inefficiency in replanting activities. At site level, however, the study found increased incomes and livelihood opportunities. The study is among many undertaken by PIDS as part of the governments zero-based budgeting approach, wherein existing programs are evaluated for their efficiency and effectiveness.

PIDS has explored other topics in environment and natural resources management, such as opportunities and constraints related to devolution to local governments, the impact of natural disasters on agriculture and natural resources, and the demand for agriculture and forestry graduates. Another important topic is the interplay between trade policy and environment policy. PIDS has recommended that the government pursue both policies in tandem, as there is no inherent conflict between an open trade policy and good environmental policy.

Visit the SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines to access the latest PIDS research on environment and natural resources as well as related topics. Simply type environment and natural resources in the Search box.


With tepid output growth over the years, the agricultural sector now accounts for just above a tenth of gross domestic product. About 32 percent of the ranks of the employed work in agriculture, forestry and hunting, and fishing. The poor can mostly be found in the rural areas working in these low-skilled, low-productivity, and low-income jobs, as PIDS research has shown. Evidence-based policies are needed to boost agricultural productivity and help reduce the ranks of the poor.

PIDS has done extensive work in agricultural policy research, in support of the government's goal of making growth more inclusive. A recent paper by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Roehlano Briones argues that the agricultural and rural economy should be at the "forefront, rather than periphery, of the country's strategy for quality employment generation." This can be achieved, he said, by enabling a structural transformation in agriculture, by shifting to high-value crops, which are more profitable than traditional crops such as rice and corn.

Agricultural diversification can increase agricultural productivity and raise farm incomes, enabling farm households to invest in health and education. However, this transformation requires rapid technological change and improved rural infrastructure, which clearly call for increased investments in infrastructure as well as in agricultural research and development (R and D), an area where the Philippines lags behind its neighbors. But it is not enough to just hike state expenditures in agriculture, which have in fact grown in recent years. Faulty design and execution of programs are partly to blame for the disappointing performance of the agricultural sector, PIDS has found. The recommendation is to veer away from input subsidies and similar production support (audit reports of which have shown leakages and other anomalies) and focus on public goods with evidence of impact, such as roads, airports, electrification, regulatory services, and R and D for technological change and agricultural modernization.

Check out PIDS research on agricultural policy, including impact assessments and case studies. You may access these studies via the SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines by simply typing 'agriculture' in the Search box.

  1. Urgent: A road map for agro-industrial development in the Philippines

  2. Agriculture, Rural Employment, and Inclusive Growth

  3. Impact Assessment of the Agricultural Production Support Services of the DA on the Income of Poor Farmers/Fisherfolk: Review of the Evidence

  4. Assessment of Prospective Impact of Fruits and Vegetables Research at the Industry Level in the Philippines: the Case of the ACIAR-PCAARRD Horticulture Project

  5. The Structure of Agricultural Trade Industry in Developing Countries

  6. Market Structure and Distribution of Benefits from Agricultural Exports: The Case of the Philippine Mango Industry

  7. Addressing Land Degradation: Benefits, Costs, and Policy Directions

  8. What's in store for AFNR graduates in the Philippines?

  9. Poverty and Agriculture in the Philippines: Trends in Income Poverty and Distribution

A disaster-prone country like the Philippines cannot afford to be complacent. Filipinos know very well the negative impact of calamitous events like supertyphoons, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. As the new PIDS President Gilberto M. Llanto notes, at least 60 percent of the total land area of the country is exposed to multiple hazards and, as a result, 74 percent of the population is rendered vulnerable. There were 268 disaster events in the country over the last three decades, placing the Philippines at 8th place in the World Bank's Natural Disaster Hotspot list of countries most exposed to multiple hazards. Among the Southeast Asian nations, the Philippines has the highest multiple climate hazard index - a measure that averages five standardized climate-related hazards, particularly typhoons, floods, droughts, landslides, and inundation, over a given period - notes PIDS Senior Fellow Danilo C. Israel.

Research is important to allow policymakers and frontline agencies to manage the harmful effects of disasters, climate change, and climate variability, as well as to assist affected groups more effectively. For instance, in 2004, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Celia M. Reyes and her team, together with collaborators from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration and Leyte State University, began a four-year project funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research on enhancing the preparedness of small farmers to climate anomalies associated with El Nino and La Nina. The project sought to increase their understanding of seasonal climate forecasts (SCF) as a tool for coming up with more informed farm production decisions. Advance information in the form of SCF has the potential to not only mitigate the adverse consequences associated with harsh climate variability but also improve their decisionmaking that could lead to increased farm profits.

Find out more about disasters and climate change from PIDS studies. Understand the economic impact of natural calamities on farm output and food security. Get a grasp of how much it costs to neglect disaster preparedness, and how cooperation and local government involvement could help mitigate the effects. You may access these studies via the SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines by simply typing 'disasters' and 'climate change' in the Search box.

  1. Impacts of Natural Disasters on Agriculture, Food Security, and Natural Resources and Environment in the Philippines

  2. Typhoons, Floods, and Droughts: Regional Occurrence and Value of Damages to Rice Farming in the Philippines

  3. Forecasting Natural Hazards and Disasters in Selected Southeast Asian Countries: The Need for Cooperative Action

  4. Examination of Intense Climate-related Disasters in the Asia-Pacific

  5. Mainstreaming Disaster Risk Management in Local Governments

  6. Weather and Climate-related Disasters: the Cost of Inaction

  7. Coping with Climate Variability and Change

  8. Assessing Rainfall Variability in Philippine Study Sites: The Rainman Application

The latest GDP figure reported by the National Statistical Coordination Board places the Philippines as the fastest growing economy in the ASEAN region. It posted a growth rate of 7.5 percent in the second quarter, surpassing its neighbors. Having the same pace, the Philippines and China are now the fastest growing in Asia. Yet the question remains: Is this growth inclusive? This is a critical issue that the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has continued to probe and shed light on. Thus, in celebration of the Development Policy Research Month this September, the Institute has chosen the theme "Making Health More Inclusive in a Growing Economy". This is to highlight the pressing need to address a glaring socioeconomic inequity in the Philippines-the lack of inclusiveness of our economic growth in the aspect of health.

Providing affordable and quality health care to all Filipinos remains an elusive goal. Government hospitals bear the brunt of health care delivery, requiring more and more financial resources every year to deal with the ballooning population and the need to upgrade facilities. Benefits from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) are insufficient to cover all medical and hospital expenses, and as a result, patients resort to borrowing money to pay for curative care. Access to health plans through health maintenance organizations or HMOs remains low as these are offered mainly by private health insurers that largely operate in the formal sector.

Research by PIDS has explored many of these issues, pointing the way forward for policymakers. A team of PIDS researchers, for instance, has found inefficient allocation of funds in health facilities nationwide, pointing to political maneuvering as one of the culprits. Results show that allocation of funds has been influenced by requests from politicians during budget deliberations, and House and Senate initiatives also tend to divert resources away from provinces that need upgrading of health facilities the most.

Meanwhile, a review of the government's cheaper medicines program by Research Consultant Oscar Picazo has found that programs such as the Botika ng Barangay (BnBs) and the Botika ng Bayan have contributed to making the retail drug market more competitive. However, with increasing competition from private retailers of generic drugs, their sustainability is a key issue that must be addressed. In particular, the insufficient financial and management support to the BnBs should be looked into. Continuous supply of drugs has been a major problem as well, which directly affects poor people's access to affordable and quality drugs in the rural areas. Supply replenishment has been found to be rooted in poor financing of drugs by the government and its fragmented drug procurement system (arising from the devolution of health services) that need to be pooled through some mechanism.

Policy research is crucial to pushing much-needed reforms in the health care sector. Know more about the issues such as the performance of public and private hospitals, compensation for public health workers, and government health programs for vulnerable sectors. Check out the following PIDS studies which you can access through the PIDS publications homepage or the SocioEconomic Research Portal for the Philippines (simply type 'health sector' in the Search box).

  1. The Puzzle of Economic Growth and Stalled Health Improvement in the Philippines

  2. Explaining the Large Disparities in Health in the Philippines

  3. Opportunities for Making Health Financing and Services More Inclusive in the Philippines

  4. Improvement of the implementation procedures and management systems for the health facilities enhancement grant of the DOH

  5. Review of the Cheaper Medicines Program of the Philippines: Botika ng Barangay, Botika ng Bayan, P100 Treatment Pack, and the role of PITC Pharma, Inc. in government drug procurement

  6. Magna Carta of Public Health Workers: Does it really fulfill its intent?

  7. New ideas to help the Aquino Administration achieve its health agenda

  8. Profile of private hospitals in the Philippines

  9. How are DOH Hospitals funded?

  10. Protecting the vulnerable through social health insurance: PhilHealth's KASAPI as a strategy

  11. A Profile of the Philippine Pharmaceutical Sector

  12. Improving Access to Affordable Medicines: Looking at Prevailing Prices and Distribution of Village Drugstores in the Philippines

After decades in the doldrums, the Philippines is gaining ground economically. This is in part due to fiscal reforms carried out in recent years. These crucial reforms have yielded fruit"the three major rating agencies have rewarded the Philippines with successive credit upgrades this year. The countrys investment-grade status reflects a picture of fiscal health: the budget deficit has been kept at just around two percent of gross domestic product (GDP). National government debt has also gone down relative to the size of the economy, compared with previous years. The tax effort or the ratio of tax collections to GDP has increased - a reflection of the governments firm resolve in increasing revenue collections and improving the administration of tax laws.

Key reforms have expanded the fiscal space, allowing the government to increase spending on social services and making its annual budget outlay more inclusive. The passage of Republic Act 10351 or the sin tax law, which raised the excise taxes on tobacco products and alcohol, has yielded billions for the universal health care program, the improvement of health facilities, and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals. Analysis made by PIDS Senior Research Fellow Rosario Manasan on the various versions of the sin tax bill provided valuable inputs to legislators during deliberations on the tax measure. Manasan notes that the bicameral version of the bill has greatly simplified the excise tax structure, easing tax administration by minimizing opportunities for mis-classification or mis-declaration of goods and transactions. PIDS has also provided research support for a signature budget reform of the Aquino II Administration: zero-based budgeting (ZBB), which aims to do away with wasteful incremental budgeting and ensure fiscal discipline. Among the ZBB studies conducted by PIDS researchers pertain to the cost-efficiency and effectiveness of sitio and household electrification, reforestation, housing resettlement, and agricultural support programs.

Still, the latest Analysis of the Presidents Budget by Dr. Manasan shows that the countrys fiscal space remains limited. Although the government has arrived at a more balanced budget distribution between social and economic services in the 2013 national budget, it continues to underinvest in certain basic services. For instance, our 2013 education budget still pales in comparison with those of our Southeast Asian neighbors. Low priority was also given to national defense, a critical area given current geopolitical issues.

To know more about the latest PIDS research on fiscal reforms and budget policy, visit the SocioEconomic Research Portal of the Philippines. Simply type fiscal deficit, zero-based budgeting, and related terms in the Search box.