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In celebration of National Social Welfare Week

QUEZON CITY,  December 7, 2022 – Undeniably our current social and economic condition remains in crisis and continues to exacerbate the lives of the marginalized Filipino people. From the plummeting peso to skyrocketing prices of primary commodities, these circumstances put our kababayan in such economic vulnerabilities.

As stated in Proclamation no. 1205 or known as the Declaration of November 25 to December 1 as the national observance of Social Welfare Week:

“efforts for social and economic development must go hand in hand with social justice to attain full human development and national progress; and social work, as one of the professions committed to social development seeks to create opportunities for individual groups and communities to develop their potentials to provide for their own well-being and contribute to national development.”

Social protection of each Filipino lies in the holistic groundwork of providing equal opportunity and access to their democratic rights, such as the right to life, liberty, security, and property.

Every Filipino must be able to exercise these democratic rights, which requires comprehensive policy development and the creation of institutions that will carry out programs to make these rights a reality.

Our current situation, as shaped by the political and economic climate, seemingly makes it hard for the majority of Filipinos to exercise their fundamental rights— from education, housing, to healthcare, implying social injustices perpetuated by the said worsening condition. Even though government programs are in place, limitations to budget, machinery, and capacity are all among the vital variables that usually get in the way of carrying out programs or the delivery of services, especially in rural areas.

Consequently, the condition in the rural areas has vivid disparity in comparison to the urban centers. The inequality in the rural areas worsens impoverishment despite being the center of agricultural production. 

During the Senate budget hearing last November 17, Deputy Minority leader Sen. Risa Hontiveros laid down her points on the budget allocation for the marginalized farmers that reflects the Agency’s (Department of Agriculture) commitment and response to poverty alleviation among agricultural workers.

In her interpellation, the senator noted how there has been a significant increase in the budget of the DA, however, according to their study, there is a huge gap in the distribution of agri-development programs for the Visayas and Mindanao regions1 whose share in agricultural production is high, but without significant return to the farmers and fisherfolk.

The agency and SAAD, recognizing this disparity, factored in equitable service in all regions of the country in the execution of its Phase 1. The island equity principle utilized in the implementation of SAAD aims to equally distribute the program’s services to beneficiaries in the three (3) main islands of the country, to also target the poorest of the poor communities not only in Mindanao.

Where does the gap lie

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) Highlights of the First Semester 2021 Official Poverty Statistics showed that Agusan del Sur, Basilan, Cotabato City, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and Zamboanga del Norte, all coming from Mindanao region2 are among the provinces that are in the Poorest Cluster.

The Mindanao region has been competing as a top producer of crops in the country, from vegetable to industrial, however, the prolific production performance does not entirely bring effect to the alleviation of the Mindanaoans’ social welfare; similar situation to the Visayas region and rural centers of Luzon.

These regions also endure decades-long of armed-conflict between the country’s armed forces and leftist-led armed groups. Subsequently, putting more Filipinos in such vulnerable dispositions and further subject their community and livelihood to devastation. 

In addition, these regions often experience catastrophic events brought on by climate crises where an average of 20 cyclones pass through the Philippines annually, incurring $10 billion in losses from climate-related hazards over a decade, largely damaging the agricultural sector.

It can be realized that the necessity to address the material condition in these rural areas plunged in the nexus of inequalities can pave the way to the resolution of these societal problems and uplift our kababayans’ quality of living. 

In hindsight, factors that perpetuate this condition (politics, climate change, lack of intensified production support and postharvest facilities and equipment, strategic marketing, penetrating the agricultural habitus of community members for project adoptability) can be addressed through tailored policies, with consideration to intersecting factors, and just prioritization, avoidance of duplication of functions, and synergistic and participatory planning to guide and promote the communities ability to advance their socio-economic welfare. With the evolving factors, a convergence approach is best to continuously read, analyze, and address hindrances to development. This way, new forms of knowledge and solutions may emerge by crossing discipline and sectoral boundaries, integrating science and social knowledge to achieve a common goal. 

Means to empower

There are myriad efforts and forms of empowerment that are being carried forward by various groups from different sectors, from government agencies to civil society organizations, non-government organizations, academic institutions, etc.

Through SAAD for one, envisaging to lead agricultural development and resource mobilization service of the DA, undertaking intensified social venture initiatives to increase food production and alleviate identified farmers and fisherfolk from poverty, it recognizes the necessity to stretch government intervention for the people and led by the people. The program, since its inception, pours a huge amount of resources for the capacity building activities, focused and targeted to the beneficiaries. It also ensures that the structure is strong and equipped enough to navigate through different realities found on the ground.

SAAD service mainly focuses on the top 30 priority provinces with high poverty incidence rate for its Phase 1 implementation, but for Phase 2 it further focuses using the following categories:

  • Top third poorest municipalities based on Philippines Statistics Authority 2018 Full Year Official Poverty Statistics
  • 5th and 6th Class Income Municipalities based on Department of Finance Income Classification

SAAD aims to create a multitude of opportunities for individuals, groups, and communities to develop their potential to provide for.

Indeed, social and economic development must go hand in hand with social justice to attain full human development and national progress3. A nation’s development can materialize when every citizen, especially in the marginalized of different intersectionalities, will be given social protection and enjoy their basic rights.

The conclusion of the celebration of National Social Welfare Week calls upon those in power— policymakers, various national offices and agencies, and elected officials to lay the foundation for each Filipino people to enjoy their democratic rights, thereafter helping guarantee their social welfare.

The SAAD Program, its implementers, from national to provincial support offices, vow to continue its service to agricultural development and bring significant impact to the communities and lives of its beneficiaries— the farmers and fishers. ###

Writer: Allanes Bagoso, DA-SAAD NPMO Information Officer

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Special Area for Agricultural Development (SAAD) Program Online ISSN: 2718-9791
Published by the SAAD National Program Management Office Editorial Board

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