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Legarda: Our laws can work for the poor

April 25, 2013

Sen. Loren Legarda today said the government has existing social programs to benefit the country’s poorest sector, not to mention laws which could create jobs and micro and small enterprises.

“The Aquino government has existing programs to target the poorest households in the country,” Legarda said. “Progress and poverty alleviation do not happen overnight. Let’s give more time to the administration to carry out its poverty alleviation programs for thepoor,” she emphasized.

Legarda made the statement following published reports today quoting the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) that the percentage of Filipinos living below the poverty line remained practically the same between 2006 and 2012.

Legarda said the Aquino government has launched its 4Ps (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program) as a poverty reduction and social development strategy by providing conditional cash grants to extremely poor households to improve their health, nutrition and education, particularly of children aged 0-14.

She said the program aims to “graduate” thousands of household beneficiaries out of poverty yearly and effectively reduce the ranks of the poor in the country.

She said there is also the Universal Healthcare program which will soon become law that will provide free healthcare benefits to the 25 million poorest Filipinos. For this measure principally authored by Legarda, even without being yet enacted, the government has already allocated P12.6-billion in the 2013 national government budget to cover PhilHealth premiums of 5.2 million poorest households.

She said she believes the Aquino administration is doing the right thing but obviously it is not enough and more work needs to be done.

Legarda said the rise in investment grade of the Philippines is the first significant step in attracting foreign investments that hopefully would create thousands of jobs.

Legarda believed that the benefits of an economic growth, which last year was at 6.6 percent, must trickle down to the most vulnerable sectors.

She said this was the main reason why she authored laws that targeted the poorest sector of society in order that there would be “bibingka growth” or growth from the grassroots.

Legarda was referring to the Magna Carta for Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Barangay Kabuhayan Act, and the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act, which she all principally authored.

“Ang maliliit na negosyo na nasa nuwebenta porsiyento ay backbone ng ating ekonomiya. Andiyan na po ang mga batas na syang magpapaunlad ng kabuhayan. Kailangan lang i-implement ng mabuti,” she said.

The MSME law helps facilitate the access of micro, small and medium enterprises to sources of funds, requiring lending institutions to set aside for them at least 8 percent of their loan portfolio. Micro and small enterprises availing of financing programs and incentives are also not required to undergo burdensome collateral requirements.

On the other hand, the Barangay Kabuhayan Law seeks to empower would-be entrepreneurs through skills trainings offered by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA in 4th, 5th and 6th class municipalities.

Legarda said the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act requires banks to allocate 25 percent of their loanable funds to the agriculture sector to finance the acquisition of work animals, farm equipment or machinery, seeds, fertilizers, livestock, feeds or other similar items for farm production.

The senator emphasized that for the country to attain sustainable and equitable economic development, communities should be resilient against disasters in order to spur agricultural growth and livelihood.