Press Releases Archived (January 2015)

image

"With the Quantitative Restriction (QR) on import of rice, expected to be abolished in July, 2017, in the Philippines, it is a need of the hour to work out an interim strategy to build the capacity of domestic farmers and other actors to face international competition," claimed Dr. Roehlano Briones, Senior Fellow, Philippines Institute for Development Studies in the third National Reference Group meeting held under the CREW project in Manila, Philippines on 30 October, 2014.

The objective of the meeting was to discuss the key findings of the Philippines Diagnostic Country Report (DCR) and crystallise a national advocacy plan.

Using the Total Welfare Impact Simulator for Trade (TWIST), a model for economic surplus analysis, Dr. Briones simulated two scenarios in the rice sector: first, free trade scenario and second, with the import quota.

For the free trade scenario, the model suggested that rice imports in 2013 would have been 3.8 billion tons higher than the actual 404,702 tons. In such a scenario, the average retail price of rice at PHP 33.70/kg would drop to equal the border price of PHP 19.8/ kg.

Furthermore, the consumer surplus will rise by PHP 178 billion, more than offsetting the PHP 34 billion and PHP 5.6 billion decline in the producer surplus and the importers revenue respectively, resulting in a consumer surplus of PHP 138 billion (or over USD 3 billion).

Whereas, in the second situation with relaxed import quota, where imports were allowed to reach 1 million tons against the actual 404,702 tons in 2013, the model suggests that retail prices would fall by PHP 2.18 per kilogram. Consumer surplus would go up by PHP 25.7 billion, while producer (farmer) surplus would fall by P6.6 billion. Importers, on the other hand, would gain by PHP 6 billion. On the aggregate the economy would benefit by PHP 25 billion.

To summarise, Dr Briones explained that pursuing a free trade regime in the rice sector will lead to an aggregate benefit of over USD 3 billion. However, as the farmers have been protected from international competition and at the same time, have received limited investment, they are unprepared for liberalisation. Further, along with the farmers, the millers and other members of the rice value chain are also expected to face losses. Hence, with the expected opening up of the import market it is essential that the same be done with safety nets to ensure protection of farmers and other stakeholders. This calls for an interim strategy that should be the focus of the Philippines government especially since the QR is likely to not be renewed.

In the bus transport sector, on the other hand, the bone of contention was cut throat competition, rather harmful competition in an arterial patch in Metro Manila, referred to as EDSA (Epifanio de los Santos Avenue). Dr. Sonny Domingo, PIDS, and researcher for the bus transport sector explained that the loss due to traffic congestion faced in the Philippines is about PHP 5.5 billion per year. Furthermore, if an effective decongestion policy is brought in place, the same will result to a net present value of PHP 13.3 billion in three years and PHP 19.8 billion in six years. "It is crucial to cut vehicular flow of traffic through traffic management and accomplish infrastructure and competition reforms in the bus transport sector," stated Mr. Domingo.

The sector has suffered a failure in terms of policy implementation and the high number of operators and buses have made it more difficult to discipline the sector. Dr. Domingo suggested revisiting the Martial Law where the bus operators were clubbed into agglomeration in order to make them accountable and easy to regulate. The agglomeration could have a monopoly in their zones where they would follow the policy of self-policing. Tony Salvador, IDEALS, confirmed the idea and mentioned that the same could also include the element of scheduled franchise licenses, where the licenses would carry the schedule, station and timings for the buses.

The meeting concluded with strong take aways in terms of the advocacy. It was decided that in the rice sector, a competitiveness package would be chalked out to prepare the rice chain for international market and the role of National Food Authority which holds the import monopoly would be revisited. While, in the case of bus transport sector, it was decided that the probable application of Marshall Law (1970s) and ways to cut down the number of buses and effective implementation decongestion rules will be looked. Neha Tomar, CUTS International remarked that the case of the Philippines was interesting as while in one sector we are strategically trying to instil healthy competition, in the other sector, we are trying to translate cut throat competition regulated competition.

Dr. Adoracion Navarro, Senior Research Fellow of PIDS, added that in a congressional hearing to consolidate legislative proposals and bills on competition policies in Congress she attended, the emerging consensus is that the Competition Authority will regulate the exercise of market power. She added that the authority will look into possible abuses by existing monopolies or existing dominant players in the different industries.

The possible role of the Department of Justice " Office on Competition is still being reviewed. There is a view that the office can evolve into the Competition Authority, but there is also a view that this might be risky.

NRG members agreed that the way to move forward is to create a government body for competition in the Philippines. That is the rising consensus, Prof. Sta. Ana, Action for Economic Reforms said.

image

A study by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has identified some serious technical problems and issues in the country`s irrigation systems that need to be resolved immediately.

The PIDS study noted that irrigation has been receiving the largest share of the total agriculture budget but its performance has always been below expectation. The proposed 2015 national budget allocated PHP 29 billion for the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), which undertakes all government irrigation projects.

For years, the actual irrigated areas for most irrigation systems in the country had all been consistently below the target. The study pointed out that this has been due mainly to overestimation of irrigable areas by not fully accounting for built-up areas or urbanization, flooded areas during the wet season, and elevated areas that cannot be reached by gravity irrigation systems.

The findings of this study titled, "Appraisal of Methodology in Estimating Irrigable Areas and Processes of Evaluating Feasibility of NIA Irrigation Projects", commissioned by the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management to PIDS, are intended to be used as inputs to the budget process. The study looked into four irrigation systems in the country, namely, Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System (AMRIS) in Bulacan, Balog-Balog Irrigation System in Tarlac, Pampanga Delta Irrigation System, and Casecnan-Upper Pampanga River Irrigation System (UPRIS) in Pampanga.

For the Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System, which has service area of 31,400 hectares, the actual irrigated area had declined to an average of about 17,500 hectares in the last 10 years from the original 22,000 hectares or so in the 1970s. According to the study, a total of 8,000 hectares of the 31,400 hectares target area in AMRIS is not irrigable.

`About 3,500 hectares of the total area has an elevation of 19 meters and thus cannot be irrigated from the Bustos dam, which has a maximum crest elevation of 18.5 meters. In addition, around 4,500 hectares of the AMRIS area had been built up with residential, commercial, and industrial infrastructure,` explained study authors Cristina David and Guillermo Tabios, both consultants of PIDS.

There is also a perceived competing water use, as in the case of AMRIS, between domestic water supply and irrigation water. But it appears that both can be supplied by the Angat Reservoir as a common water source. However, during critical dry periods such as El Nio events, there may be a need to curtail irrigation water deliveries in accordance with the Philippine Water Code of 1976, which requires that domestic water supply be given higher priority than irrigation water supply.

The same set of issues persists in the Pampanga Delta Irrigation System, which has a design service area of 11,540 hectares. Based on the data from the NIA, only around 1,000 hectares or 8 percent of the target coverage area during wet season and 3,800 hectares or about 30 percent of the target coverage area during dry season. Using a geographic information system (GIS) map of this area, it was found that a total of over 6,000 areas cannot be irrigated because these places have either become urbanized, converted to fish pens, have higher elevation than the water source, or usually become flooded during the wet season.

Meanwhile, Balog-Balog and Casecnan irrigation areas cover or overlap within two watershed boundaries. Since both systems deliver water by gravity, the efficiency of the design of these irrigation systems where the canal network traverses another watershed is questionable.

Likewise, for the proposed PHP 8-billion Balog-Balog Dam, David and Tabios pointed out some serious technical and financial issues that NIA should resolve before proceeding with the construction of the dam.

First, it was pointed out that the budget for the construction of this massive dam with a height of 105 meters and a crest length of 1.4 kilometer appears to be underestimated.

"The proposed Kaliwa Dam of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), which will be 62 meters high with a crest length of 240 meters, costs PHP 4.1 billion. When translated to cost per dam face area, the cost is PHP 275,530 per square meter. Likewise, the proposed Laiban Dam of MWSS, which will be 115 meters high with crest length of 650 meters, costs PHP 10.8 billion, translating to a unit cost of PHP 144,481 per square meter dam face. In the case of Balog-Balog Dam, unit cost is only at PHP 55,478 per square meter dam face," the authors explained.

David and Tabios also contended that the spillway design capacity of the Balog-Balog Dam at a maximum outflow of 3,250 cubic meters per second, associated with a 20-year return period flood, is low.

"Normally, a dam this size is designed to have a spillway capacity associated with the probable maximum flood of between 100-year and 200-year return period floods. A dam being overtopped because of an inadequate spillway is an unacceptable risk," they stated in the report.

In terms of water requirement for the Balog-Balog Irrigation System, NIA`s in-house engineering consulting group, NIA Consult, estimated that the average all-year round water requirement for paddy rice was about 26 cubic meters per second for the total irrigation service area of 34,410 hectares.

"This appears to be too low considering that paddy rice irrigation water requirement for Angat-Maasim River Irrigation System ranges from 0.00112 to 0.00167 cubic meter per second per hectare, which translates to a range of 38.54"57.46 cubic meters per second for Balog-Balog`s design service area," the researchers stated.

Given all these issues, the authors observed that `NIA seems to be satisfied with studies it has conducted to support the funding and implementation of the dam project. The fundamental issue here is whether NIA, the implementing agency of irrigation projects, should also conduct the feasibility studies, including planning, design, and operations, since it is in its interest to build and implement the irrigation projects to begin with."

You may download the full study from this link: http://dirp3.pids.gov.ph/webportal/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidspn1420.pdf

image

Although the Philippines is on track in achieving many of the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), inequities in accessibility, availability and affordability of health services across the country still exists.

Speaking at a regional forum on the Philippine Health Sector Performance in Cebu City, Dr. Celia Reyes, Senior Research Fellow of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said the recent economic gains have not translated to better and equitable social outcomes, particularly for health status.

Using official data, Reyes and her team found that people from Luzon generally have better access to health services and facilities, thus, better health situation compared to their counterpart from Visayas and Mindanao.

`In terms of hospital beds to population ratio for example, only one-third of the provinces are able to meet the required one bed for every 1000 people. Most of these hospitals are located in the National Capital region (NCR),` Reyes pointed out.

Likewise, Reyes highlighted the uneven distribution of health labor force across the country. For example, there are 28 doctors per 100 thousand population in NCR whereas there are only 12 per 100 thousand in Central Visayas. In Bicol Region, the ratio is lower at 10 doctors per 100 thousand and even lower in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) at only 3 doctors per 100 thousand population.

When it comes to health facilities, not all hospitals have x-ray and ultrasound machines. Hospitals in the NCR are more equipped compared to other regions. Aside from this, not all hospitals have complete basic emergency equipment. Only 56 percent of hospitals in NCR have complete basic emergency equipment while for the rest of the regions, less than half of hospitals have these facilities.

Access to health facilities translates to better health situation. For example, in NCR where people have better access to health services and facilities, health indicators such as infant mortality, maternal health, antenatal care, etc. are also better.

According to Reyes, these regional disparities need to be addressed to continue the gains that have been achieved in the health sector. She noted that government should put more resources and capacity-building programs for regions that persistently trail behind in terms of health indicators.

Despite the regional disparities, Reyes noted improvements in the overall health status among regions from 2008 to 2013.

Looking at indicators like infant mortality rate, malnutrition, antenatal care, immunization, and birth delivery by health professional, Reyes stated that by 2011, the rates have gone down and have become slightly more equitable across regions.

`Regions are comparable to level of development of countries when it comes to health outcomes. For instance, in terms of birth delivery by health professional, the figures for Central Visayas are just slightly higher than that of Cambodia and Myanmar. In terms of antenatal care, figures for NCR are close to that of Singapore while for ARMM, performance in antenatal care is similar to that of Bangladesh,` Reyes explained.

Meanwhile, Reyes said the Philippines is likely to achieve health-related MDGs , particularly in reducing child mortality, and in combating malaria and tuberculosis. However, it would be difficult to for the country to achieve the target for maternal health and HIV-AIDS, she added.

`There has been no significant difference for the maternal mortality figures between 2006 and 2011 and given this progress, it could be very difficult for the country to achieve the goal by 2015. The indicators for HIV AIDS are also not favorable given the increasing number of reported cases,` Reyes expounded.

In 2000, the Philippines together with other United Nations member-countries adopted the eight Millennium Development Goals for 2015 which aims to free people from extreme poverty and multiple deprivations. Three of these goals are related to health: reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

Reyes` presentation is part of a project by PIDS and the Department of Health (DOH) that looks into the governments Kalusugang Pangkalahatan or Universal Health Care program, a component of the Health Sector Reform Agenda in 2010. It has three major components namely, financial risk protection, health facilities improvement and attainment of health-related MDGs.

Results and key findings of the PIDS-DOH research project will help policymakers steer the health system, monitor existing health policies and programs, and provide DOH and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) basis for their future policies and programs.

The forum on Philippine Health Sector Performance was organized by PIDS in partnership with the DOH and the Philippine Information Agency Region VII.

image

The number of children living in poverty in the Philippines continues to climb despite the country`s recent economic gains.

According to a study titled `Child Poverty in the Philippines` by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), there were already about 13.4 million Filipino children living in poverty in 2009.
`This number represents 36 percent or more than one-third of all Filipino children aged below 18. Being poor, they suffer from deprivations of food, shelter, health, and education,` said Dr. Celia Reyes, PIDS senior research fellow and lead author of the study.

Using data collected from national surveys and administrative records of various government agencies, the key findings of the study demonstrate that both the number and severity of poverty among Filipino children have been increasing through the years.

Around 10 million of these children face at least two overlapping types of severe deprivation in basic amenities while an estimated .75 million face at least five kinds of deprivation simultaneously.

During the same year, there were around 4 million children who did not have access to sanitary toilet facilities while 4 million did not have access to safe water. Another 260,000 kids did not have decent shelter.

`There were 1.4 million children living in informal settlements, 6.5 million did not have access to electricity in their homes, and 3.4 million did not have means to access information,` Reyes said.

In terms of education, the key issues are low cohort survival and poor level of achievement. In the last ten years, the percentage of students who were able to complete elementary and secondary levels have hardly improved.

`Largely because of poverty, 5.5 million children are forced to work in 2011 to augment family income. These children are unable to pursue their education and this affects their ability to find better work opportunities in the future,` the study noted.

Poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon. The study estimates that three out of four children from income poor families are living in the rural areas. At the same time, eight of 10 who are severely deprived of safe water and sanitary toilet are found in the rural areas.

Zamboanga Peninsula, Eastern Visayas, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) were identified by the study as the regions where the condition of children is dismal in many aspects and therefore should be prioritized in interventions.

`The updated Philippine Development Plan recognizes the need to have spatial focus to address the specific needs of provinces and has identified priority provinces. A more targeted approach will hopefully address the varying needs of children across the provinces,` Reyes stated.

Population growth, the lack of inclusivity of economic growth, and the exposure of the country to natural calamities, are expected to worsen child poverty within the next few years.

`In the Philippines, despite the country`s recent economic progress, poverty continues to affect millions of families with young children. This is visible in the number of young ones who wander the streets in urban areas, scavenge for resources, or those who, at an early age, are forced to drop out of school to work to supplement their family income,` Reyes explained.

According to the study, the problem goes beyond mere lack of income or assets for these children`s families. Their situation speaks of a roster of factors that range from lack of appropriate skills to inability to control fertility intertwined with lack of job opportunities and other economic problems.

The full study may be downloaded from this link: http://dirp4.pids.gov.ph/webportal/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidsdps1433.pdf




image

Granting financial aid to poor but deserving students to enroll in college is not enough. Government must help ensure these grantees finish their education through a proper selection process.

These were the recommendations presented by the latest study released by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Authored by PIDS consultant Denise Valerie Silfverberg, the study How should income-based grantees in tertiary education be chosen? is a preliminary review of the Students Grants-In-Aid Program for Poverty Alleviation (SGP-PA) of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

As a form of affirmative action, SGP-PA provides financially constrained but deserving students the opportunity to obtain college degrees and break the cycle of poverty. A related PIDS study published in 2013 found that the higher a persons educational attainment, the better are his chances to get employed and earn higher wages.

CHED and DSWD plan to expand the number of the programs recipients to 36,000 from the current 4,000 in the current academic year. Since the program was first implemented in AY 2012-2013, CHED selected the SGP-PA candidates from the DSWDs list of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) households. Selection was based on the following criteria: the candidates must be 16"30 years old; have completed high school; are not receiving a scholarship, grant, or funding; and must come from households who do not have any other college graduate.

The complex challenges to the SGP-PAs success became more obvious when the selection process was put under the discretion of the state universities and colleges (SUCs).

By looking at the selection and implementation stages of the program, and analyzing available data from two SUCs, Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU) and Mindanao University of Science and Technology (MUST), Silfverberg identified some problems and provided possible interventions to fine-tune the program.

For example, having different policies to accommodate the program contributed to the variations in the SGP-PAs success rate. The SUCs implementing the SGP-PA were requested to waive the entrance exams and accommodate the potential beneficiaries identified in their area. DMMMSU heeded this request but MUST enforced its admission process, albeit lowering the passing grade a little for the grantees, she noted.

Comparisons between the household characteristics of grant recipients and ordinary tertiary students clearly reveal that the grantees were disadvantaged. These setbacks often affected the grantees abilities to perform well and finish their schooling.

Thus, it is essential, she says, that SUCs incorporate indicators such as admissions exams, social adaptation, and strategies to help grantees gain a developmental approach to their education.

Between DMMSU and MUST, the latter proved more persistent when it came to intervening in several aspects of the grantees student life. MUST provided avenues for socialization, and helped induce improved academic performance through assigned student tutoring and by waiving summer school fees for grantees to retake failed subjects. Meanwhile, DMMMSU enforced a buddy system and likewise offered counseling, explains Silfverberg.

The figures of grantees that dropped out of their college programs so far revealed the limits and complex challenges of the SGP-PA program. One reason, which is within the control of CHED and the SUCs, included the consequence of financial difficulties due to the fact that grantees did not receive their stipends on time.

Other reasons for dropping out were not related to academics, Silfverberg notes, such as pregnancy, health issues, familial obligations, behavioral issues, and homesickness. Meanwhile, 30 percent of grantees dropped out because they were uninterested or preferred to work.

Silfverberg recommends that CHED and DSWD refine their selection process and focus their efforts on finding candidate grantees that fit their initial criteria and who, at the same time, have the interest and ability to finish their education. The best available tool for gauging this would be admission exams, she said.

A more intensive and detailed information campaign of the availability of SGA-PA is also recommended. Those who are committed in sincerely obtaining tertiary education would avail of the program, which would improve the process of selection instead of scouting candidates from 4Ps beneficiaries.

She also recommends that SUCs take into consideration the cultural challenges experienced by the grantees when designing intervention programs. These interventions are necessary for the program objectives to be met. Grantees have to be well-adjusted academically and otherwise, which would then lead to a considerably higher likelihood of completing tertiary education, she concludes.

You may download the full study from this link: http://dirp3.pids.gov.ph/webportal/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidspn1419.pdf