Data Alerts

Promises Unfulfilled, Change Unperceived: A Country Report on Filipino Women in the Time of Neoliberalism

March 2017

The toiling Filipino women anticipated a qualitative change when the new administration of Rodrigo Roa Duterte came into power in May 2016, replacing the callous, incompetent, corrupt, and elitist government of Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III. Thus, women have forwarded an agenda last July 2016 to the new president, encompassing political, socio-economic, and cultural aspects that they deemed necessary to uplift them from poverty and subjugation.

Initially, the new government gave pro-people pronouncements such as ending contractualization, granting free education, providing services to the poor and to farmers, stopping demolitions, among others. President Duterte even included known leaders of the people’s organizations in his Cabinet. He immediately ordered the resumption of peace talks with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

However, women express concern when President Duterte and his economic technocrats presented the government’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda that brings into play a similar neoliberal framework of the Aquino administration. The socioeconomic agenda includes continuation of macroeconomic policies, progressive tax reform and collection, increasing competitiveness and ease of doing business including relaxation of Constitutional restrictions, accelerating annual infrastructure spending through public-private partnerships, promotion of rural enterprise and rural tourism, ensuring security of land tenure to encourage investments, investing in human capital development to meet the demand of businesses, promotion of science and technology and creative arts, improving social protection programs including conditional cash transfer, and strengthening the implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.

Through the years, the Philippine economy with a neoliberal or “free market” framework has only kept the country underdeveloped. Because of such framework, women have experienced depressed wages, vanished job security, declined living standards, among others. Women are more likely than men to be unemployed or to be contributing family workers, which usually implies that they have no access to monetary income.[ii] With the Duterte government’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda, women could hardly see a change in their semi-slave condition.

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Women in Southeast Asia: Resisting Militarism, Asserting Sovereignty

29 November 2016

On the occasion of International Women Human Rights Defenders Day, the Center for Women’s Resources releases its new publication “Women in Southeast Asia: Resisting Militarism, Asserting Sovereignty”.

“Together with the people’s movements around the world, women are building movements and organizations to fight imperialism and neoliberalism that aim to control the world’s resources. Southeast Asian women, comprising half of the poor and struggling peoples who have been deprived of food, resources, and rights, need to have a collective call for action.

Militarism and resource wars widen the gap between the rich and the poor. As more repressive governments embrace the US pivot to Asia, women should react with a unified stand against the policy and expose the abuses caused by the culture of militarism.”

CWR releases "A hundred-day challenge: Women's Proposal to the Duterte Administration"

25 July 2016

In time for Pres. Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA), CWR releases today its new publication "A hundred-day challenge: Women's Proposal to the Duterte Administration". To access full copy, email us at

INSIDE | Women foster participation in promoting the agenda with doable proposals for Duterte's first 100 days in the following concerns: resumption of the peace talks and release of political prisoners, economic security, support in agriculture, policy on migrants, provision of social services, violence against women and children, and national sovereignty.

[ULAT LILA] Women’s Agenda 2016: Filipino Women Demand an End to Illusory Promises, Call for Genuine Change

March 2016

It is the time of the year when call for change becomes the dominant tone. The May 2016 national elections offers again a new start with a new leadership, letting everyone hope that the past flubdub and illusory promises of the preceding six years will never be repeated. Despite mainstream media's spin on his achievements, the incumbent President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino’s electoral pledges of a righteous path have resulted to disappointments, disasters, and danger.

As Philippine politics is traditionally dominated by the rich and the powerful, the attention that the ordinary people get during electoral period is brief, duplicitous, and temporized. Particularly among women, they get the attention not just as voters but also as part of the entertainment ensemble of the candidates. Such unfavorable cultural flaw remains to be practiced by the traditional political parties.

Thankfully, many women realize their formidable role to institute changes in the structure and system that will ensure the recognition and realization of their potential in nation building. As they did not see any substantial change in the past six years of President BS Aquino's "tuwid na daan", women desire for the next six years a genuine societal transformation where their demands would be fulfilled.

So for the 2016 national elections, women once again present to the hopeful candidates their agenda. The list includes job security with decent wages, land distribution, free and quality social services for the marginalized, a violent-free environment for women and children, and guarantee for national sovereignty and patriotism. This time, more than ever, women emphasize an end to illusory promises and call for genuine change.

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APEC’s design for women empowerment: truth or tale?

November 2015

The Philippines hosts for the second time the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in 2015. Since October, the Aquino government frantically conducts build-up activities and prepares the country to show a supposedly "rising tiger in Asia" as declared by the World Bank. Almost 20 years ago, the Philippines was also touted as “Asia’s next economic tiger” when it hosted for the first time the APEC summit in 1996. Back to the present, the country is still called a "rising tiger."

Adding to the rising Philippine economy propaganda is its tune of inclusiveness. Consequently, this year’s APEC meeting carries the theme "Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World." It aims to distribute the benefits of "growth and globalization" in "all levels within APEC economies" so it gives support of financial services to small medium enterprises (SMEs) and individuals as well as building partnerships in "energy security issues." APEC Summit 2015 also aims to invest more in human capital development, including assistance to indigenous or rural communities to participate in the global markets.

APEC puts women as part of the core for such inclusive economies since apparently, their potential remains untapped. More so, this can supposedly be possible by giving women access to capital, access to market, capacity building, opportunity for innovation and technology.

So by November 2015, leaders of 21 countries once again gather for the APEC Summit to discuss and outline plans on how to invest in the human capital, including women and other vulnerable sectors. But basically, their discussion will consist of strengthening the neoliberal agenda of development in the Asia-Pacific region, similar to the past summits of several multilateral economic formations.

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GUMMING UP THE GOAL: Why MDGs will not attain its target by 2015, the Philippine experience

September 2014

This paper looks into the issues that make MDG unattainable by 2015. It also tackles the neoliberal policy like privatization that further impedes the welfare of women and children, particularly on health and education.

Introduction: the MDG commitment

In September 2000, the Philippine government agreed, together with 189 member states of the United Nations (UN), to track progress in the attainment of the eight goals and 18 targets of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) over the period 1990 to 2015.

Now with less than 500 days before the deadline, the Philippine government vows to take measures and implement programs and policies that would help attain the goals. The government’s Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan has expressed the need for a strong and unified determination from all sectors at the national and local levels to make good on its Millennium promise. (1)

The missing of MDG target by 2015 is not a surprising scenario given that the government has entered into agreement without preparing the bases for fulfilling the decrease in mortality rate, eradication of hunger, increase of literates with quality education, among others. The government, even under the incumbent leadership of Mr. Benigno Simeon Aquino III, has repeatedly ignored to address the chronic crisis of a backward economy due to neoliberal policies and neocolonial politics.

Instead, the current Aquino administration particularly pushes for public-private partnerships (PPPs) as its way to accelerate growth. It sees the essential role of the private sector as the main engine for national growth and development. It gives pertinent incentives to stimulate private resources for the purpose of financing the construction, operation and maintenance of infrastructure and development projects normally undertaken by the government. (2)

In effect, poverty continues to be a challenge; joblessness and landlessness block human development. Security and services stay as a major concern for Filipino women. Job security is scarcer, social services is more inaccessible to them. Privatization runs counter to women’s empowerment. With neoliberal policies at work, MDG targets remain rhetorical.

Economic growth: who gains and who loses

The Aquino government boasts of a remarkable economic recovery starting with a 7.2% growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013. The World Bank has supported such claim by calling the country as “Asia’s rising tiger” while the World Economic Forum has touted it as the “next Asian miracle.”

The gainers in this economic growth are the few local elites and the foreign investors. The gap between the rich and the poor widens. The Filipino women – along with the rest of the majority – do not feel the so-called economic growth because poverty incidence remains high at 25.2%. Despite having an expensive poverty reduction program like the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) that focuses on women and children, poverty incidence did not significantly change from 26.6% in 2006.

Conservative estimation counts 23.7 million poor Filipinos where the highest incidence are recorded in the areas of ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao), Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Bicol, and Caraga regions. The National Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB) put the poverty line for a family of five at ₱7,821 a month (as of the first semester of 2012).

The incessant price increases due to liberalization and deregulation adds burden to women who usually budget the family's meager income.

The price of rice, the Filipinos' staple food, has increased by Php2.00 to Php8.00 for every kilo. Filipino families in poor households feed themselves even with rice alone garnished with salt or fish sauce only. So, the increase in the price of rice is a huge burden for them.

LPG, an important utility used by women, has increased its price by ₱100.00 to ₱180.00 per 11-kg tank. Prices in Metro Manila rose from ₱700.00 in 2012 to more than ₱900.00 in 2013. Higher prices were recorded in Mindanao and the Visayas even before super typhoon Haiyan lashed Eastern Visayas in 2013.

The deregulation of the oil industry caused the vulnerability of oil prices to spike up and down, though most of the time, it goes up. For example, in 2013, CWR monitored that the price of diesel increased 23 times while it decreased only 16 times. This resulted to the net increase in the price of diesel by ₱4.68.

Water, electricity, and fare in MRT and LRT are subject to increase. Water rates propose to increase by 21% to 30%. Power has been steadily surging up since the implementation of EPIRA in 2001. The latest proposal of Meralco – the top grosser company in the country - is to add ₱4.25 per kWh in its rate, citing losses and necessary improvements as reasons for the increase. The MRT/ LRT fare proposes 25% to 67% hike. These proposed rate hikes in water, electricity, and MRT/LRT fare are only restrained temporarily by the resistance and assertion of the consumers.

To cope with hunger, poor families have lessened their food intake and have developed new eating habits, such as the following:

• Memorize or Imagine – families visualize delicious and nutritious food while eating rice with salt or fish sauce
• Practice – families adjust and reduce their food intake in anticipation of a decreasing supply of food in the coming days
• “Peking duck” – a new term for “pagpag” (dusting off), referring to leftovers from restaurants, which families collect from the garbage and cook as their meal for the day
• AlTangHap – eating one full meal for a day, already covering ALmusal (breakfast), TANGhalian (lunch), and HAPunan (dinner).
• Piso-piso – junk food, which costs Php1.00, serves as viand for poor families

Such practice threatens the health and nutrition of breastfeeding mothers and children. Due to food and nutrient deprivation, many children in poor communities are underweight and/ or stunted. Adults suffer from chronic energy deficiency.

Based on the latest survey of the National Nutrition Council (2013), although there is a decline in stunting among children, 29.9% of children aged 5-10 years and 31.5% of adolescents aged 11-19 years old are undersized while 29% of children aged 5 – 10 years old are underweight. (3) Among adults, 10% suffer chronic energy deficiency, which is characterized by low body weight and energy stores due to inadequate food consumption. (4)


The Aquino government describes its economic growth as “inclusive”, indicating a well-distributed wealth among its people. Concretely, the 50 richest families account for 25% of the country’s ₱12-trillion GDP.

The billionaires’ list includes Henry Sy, the patriarch of SM Prime Holdings, SM Investments Corp. and Banco De Oro; Lucio Tan of Asia Brewery, Philippine Airlines, and Philippine National Bank; Andrew Tan of Megaworld; and Ayala family of Ayala Corporation, Bank of Philippine Islands and Manila Water. These are the same individuals and families who are bidders and who hold PPP project contracts that the government has opened for the private sector or companies.

Based from the data released by NSCB, individuals from the high-income class, which account for 16% of the country’s population, experience a 10.4% annual growth in income. In contrast, incomes of people in the middle-income segment grow by only 4.3%, and incomes of those in the low-income group by 8.2%. With the incomes of the rich growing faster, income inequality is expanding as a consequence. (5)

High-income individuals are those belonging to households who earn more than 10 times the poverty line. Middle-income individuals are those earning from twice to up to 10 times the poverty line (₱187,704.000–₱938,520.00). Low-income individuals are members of households earning twice the poverty line or less (₱187,704.000 or lower).

Data from the NSCB show that the high-income households accounted for more than half, or 60 percent, of the economy’s income as measured by the gross domestic product. The balance of 40 percent of the economy’s income is shared by the bulk, or about 84 percent, of the country’s population.

Millions of Filipinos remain poor because of landlessness and unemployment. Latest statistics from the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES), reveals that 2.92 million are unemployed. Underemployment is also high, and if added to the number of unemployed, almost 10 million Filipinos are either jobless or lack security in their jobs. If employed, most are laborers and unskilled workers (12.49 million) whose daily average wage is less than ₱200.00.

Women are far worse off than the other sectors. Participation rate of women in economic activity is only 49%. More than one million are unemployed while 69% are employed in services with daily average wage lower than ₱270.00. Some three million women are in agriculture with daily wage of ₱150.00. Another 2.3 million are unpaid family workers.

With low wages that are not even enough to buy food, poor families need public services for their health and education needs. However, the government outsourcing of services to private firms makes the services more inaccessible to marginalized families.

MDG progress on health and education

Based from the latest MDG country progress report, data on maternal mortality ratio (MMR)
did not show progress in recent years. The report indicates that it is unlikely that the target of reducing the MMR by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, would be achieved.

The report also shows that infant and under-five mortality rates have been considerably reduced and the targets will likely be achieved by 2015. It is important to note however, that neonatal mortality has only been reduced slightly.

Despite improvements in morbidity and mortality rates associated with malaria and tuberculosis, the latter is still one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the country. On the other hand, the number of new HIV cases has been increasing, although the HIV prevalence is estimated to still be less than one percent. (6)

In terms of goals on education, the Philippines is likely to meet its target of universal access to primary education with 95.5% net enrollment rate. However, the cohort survival (75.3%) and completion rates (73.70%) are still low and the quality of education still needs to be improved.

These data do not come as a surprise because of government spending on social services. Despite boasting of ₱841.8 billion on social services, portions of this would not really benefit women and children.


Continued low spending on basic social services causes the government to miss even its own target for health care financing. In 2012, the total government spending for health is ony 4.1% of total government expenditure, lower than its 6% target. (7)

The present P87.1 billion budget for the Department of Health (DoH) is a far cry from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommendation of 5% of gross national product (GNP), which should be around ₱440 billion.

Due to this low government spending, most of the expenses incurred on health come from the private sources. In 2012, private sources of health expenditure comprise 69% of the country’s total health expenditure where 82% are direct, out of pocket expenses for hospital bills, doctors’ fees, and medications.

Even after agreeing to achieve the development goals in 2000, government spends very little for health. In 2000, DoH received ₱10.8 billion budget; in 2005, it obtained ₱9.80 billion; and in 2010, it received ₱28.7 billion. (8) The budget has increased significantly in recent years. In 2014, ₱87.1 billion is alloted to the agency.

However, the increase of budget does not reflect an improvement for the provision of services. The increase caters to the government’s objective of making health services as part of its income-generating services.

Thus, 15% or 13.3 billion of the budget is alloted for health facilities enhancement, which includes enhancement for medical tourism. The Philippines is among the top 15 countries that are visited for medical tourism. The government is gearing up its effort to entice more tourists to visit the country.

Another huge chunk, P35.3 billion or 40% is allocated for PhilHealth, a health insurance scheme. In recent years, there has been a growing government dependence on insurance as means to provide access to health services. In fact, social health insurance expenditure, largely by PhilHealth, posted a 32% growth from 2011 to 2012. However, it still comprises a small portion of health expenditure - 11% - as compared to private or out-of-pocket expenditures of 69%.

Still, in June 2013, the National Health Insurance Act of 2013 was enacted mandating the government to provide comprehensive health care services to all Filipinos through a socialized health insurance program that will prioritize the health care needs of the sick, underprivileged, elderly, persons with disabilities (PWDs), and women and children. It has promised to provide health care services to indigents, touted as Kalusugan Pangkalahatan or universal health care. (9)

In the Philippines, health insurance schemes including PhilHealth have been regarded as non-beneficial especially because public hospitals are ill-equipped and understaffed. Since 1995, the number of government health practitioners remains stagnant.

The doctor-to-population national average ratio is a low 3.5 doctors per 10,000 people but in the rural areas, it is three doctors to 100,000 people, according to DoH. While the nurse-to-population ratio is one nurse to 16,000 Filipinos. The numbers are fewer among dentists and other health workforce. A big number of the population rarely sees a health care practitioner unless it is already a matter of life-and-death situation.

Although there are modern hospitals with up-to-date facilities available in the country, only the upper 20-30 percent of the population can afford to enjoy these services. (10) An estimated 70% of all health professionals work in the private sector.

Many of the health practitioners - 20% of the doctors and 26% of the dentists – are concentrated in the National Capital Region. With the minimal public health financing that could not meet the needs of the growing population, the indigent patients find it harder to access services even with such a scheme like PhilHealth.

In addition, late repayments of PhilHealth to private hospitals also forced member-beneficiaries to pay in full. They are the ones who eventually suffer the slow process of reimbursing payments from Philhealth.

The large chunk of budget for PhilHealth can be appropriated instead to the improvement of deteriorating health care facilities and other equipment that are most needed by government hospitals. Based from CWR’s computation, the ₱35.1 billion allocated for PhilHealth can be used to procure medical equipment including ultrasound and fetal machine, and hospital beds.


While spending low on health care, the government seeks the private sector to improve, modernize or enhance government health facilities in the country through its public-private partnership framework.

Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, the only public maternity hospital for the poor, is included in the government’s modernization and corporatization scheme. The government plans to relocate the hospital to the DoH compound, while its present location will be developed as a commercial complex for the Light Rail Transit. DoH has awarded a ₱743-million contract to J.D. Legaspi Construction, a private contractor, which won the right to design and build the hospital in a bidding last year. The planned construction of new Fabella hospital will cater to only 400 patients. Presently, Fabella’s 700 beds is already insufficient where three to four pregnant women share a bed.

Fabella hospital is dubbed as the “baby factory” because it caters to 50 – 80 deliveries per day and it delivers 20% of Metro Manila babies. It is a preferred hospital by poor women in Metro Manila because of its relatively affordable services. With the looming privatization, many women fear that costs of services at Fabella will shoot up, further limiting their access to its services.

Another hospital, the Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), is likewise in the process of being privatized. The government plans to evict the hospital from its present location and it will be moved at a compound of Lung Center of the Philippines. The area presenty occupied by the hospital is part of the Quezon City Central Business District, a prime government property being developed for ₱65 billion through public-private partnership with Ayala consortium’s Vertis North. Once the transfer is accomplished, the Department of Health plans to cede the PCMC’s operations to private investors.

PCMC is the only government tertiary hospital in the country that provides children with quality and affordable care and treatment. Every year, it caters to 70,000 out-patient children from all parts of the Philippines, including those who are cancer-stricken and who would otherwise be unable to afford the necessary care and treatment. It is also a Level 4 training hospital that produces the best pediatric specialists in the Philippines. It also caters to 11,000 admissions each year, 60% of which are indigent.


While the government boasts that the education sector gets a lion’s share in the country’s annual budget, it is still very limited to close the backlogs in classroom, teachers, books and other school facilities. While UNESCO recommends 6% of GDP be alloted to education, the government allocates at most, 2.35% of GDP. (See table 5) It still lags behind neigboring countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam that allot an average of 4.1% equivalent of their GDP in education.

As with the health service, the government also seeks the private sector’s role in education. One of the flagship projects of the administration is the Public-Private Partnership for School Infrastructure Project (PPP-SIP).

Phase 1 of PPP-SIP has been awarded to Citicore-Megawide consortium to build 9,300 classrooms and BF group while Phase 2 has been given to Megawide Construction Corp and Vicente Lao Construction to build 10,679 classrooms. Aside from construction, the project also involves the design and maintenance of the classroom.

Another form of privatization in education is the Government Assistance to Students and Teachers in Private Education (GASTPE). The GASTPE partially finances the transfer enrolment of students from public school to a private school. This is being implemented in high school level.

In NCR, grantees receive P10,000, while grantees in the province receive ₱6,500 in a year. From 2010 to 2014, budget for GASTPE has increased sharply from ₱3.9 billion to ₱7.4 billion. Its share in education budget also increases from 0.92% in 2000 to 3.11% in 2012 and 2.64 in 2014.

However, the 6,500 – 10,000 grant per year for students barely answers the problem of shortage of educational facilities and services. First, the fund can hardly sustain a year-long education especially that private schools have other requirements and projects, which would be an additional burden for a student from an indigent family. Second, the completion rate of 73% only indicates that education is exepnsive, be it private or public. Thus, what is needed is to make education accessible and free in all levels so as to provide opportunity to 100% of students.

Further, the budget has increased but not the salary of teachers and non-teaching personnel who are mostly women. A portion of the budget, some ₱15 billion will be for the construction of 15,619 classrooms. Such construction is not to address the backlogs in classrooms but for the expected senior high school students for 2016.

Effort to reach MDG through CCT/ 4Ps

In a rush to meet the Millennium Development Goal commitment to halve extreme poverty by 2015, cash transfer programs have been widely adopted as a solution of many developing countries in Latin America and some Asian countries like the Philippines. These cash transfer programs have been established through a loan from World Bank and other international financial institutions, which actively campaign for such schemes as the social protection program.

The Philippines, also with its aim to comply with MDG 3 for gender equality and Goal 5 for improvement of maternal health, has adopted its own version of the conditional cash transfer (CCT), dubbed as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps. It focuses on women and children of poor households.

The 4Ps started in 2007 during the time of Gloria Macapacal Arroyo. While 4Ps under the Arroyo administration gained much criticism, the incumbent Aquino administration has continued and has expanded the cash transfer program in 2010, making it the government’s central social development program.

Primarily implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), conditional cash grants are given to women in poor households to improve their health as well as the nutrition and education of their children aged 0-14 years old.

The Department has received a ₱29.2 billion budget where 72% or ₱21 billion are for the cash distribution to 2.3 million poor families. This is part of the US$405 million or ₱35 billion loan from World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

To date, the program has been alloted ₱182 billion with four million beneficiaries across the country. Recently, the Philippines gets another US$400 million loan from the World Bank to finance the program. The program operates for five years.

However, after years of implemetation of 4Ps, the Filipino women and children remain as one of the poorest sectors in the country. Based from the NSCB data, there is only a slight decrease in poverty incidence among women and children from 25.9% in 2009 to 25.6% in 2012. Data for children reveal no significant change either, from 35.2% in 2006, the number has increased marginally to 35.3% in 2009 and 35.2% in 2012. Poverty incidence has increased likewise in the regions, especially in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Eastern Visayas and Central Visayas.

In 2011, CWR has started its series of studies to look into the effects of the cash trasfer scheme to women and children. One of 4Ps’ conditionalities is the compliance to report to health centers for check up and to send their children to school.

However, health center and schools lack facilities to meet such compliance. The doctors in the health centers shared their frustration of prescribing medicines that are unavailable in the health centers. The limited access to health service due to lack of doctors, nurses, and dentists in the health centers makes it difficult for beneficiaries to comply with the program’s requirements.

Responses from beneficiaries show that complying with the conditionalities have been
forced instead of explaining or orienting mothers on the importance of being healthy. Since
the scheduled check-up is mandatory, the beneficiaries consider it as an involuntary task rather than as a necessary practice for their own good. Some mothers complain of the long queues during health check ups which they need to do every month.

Another condition of the program is for schoolchildren aged 6 to 14 to regularly attend
classes. Schoolchildren are allotted ₱300.00 each for 10 school months. This translates to
a subsidy of ₱15.00 per day for each child.

Beneficiaries could hardly make both ends meet with the incessant increase in prices of
commodities. The surging prices are aggravated by the erratic schedule of cash release
that makes it more difficult for mothers to send their children to school. Those in the rural areas exert more effort in complying with the conditionalities since schools are located in the center or urban areas only. For example, a Mangyan child beneficiary needs to travel for hours just to reach the nearest school in the center area.

The beneficiaries are forced to comply with the conditionalities because not doing so means deductions in their cash grants.

The beneficiaries interviewed by CWR also articulate that what they really need is a permanent and decent job with a just wage. Seventy seven percent (77%) believe that having a secured job or source of income would help them in the long term rather than the cash hand outs. They also see access to free and quality social services, such as health and education as an integral component for the upliftment of their lives.

Thus, many women’s organizations argue for the need to realign the billions of CCT budget to directly serve the people. From CWR’s computation, the ₱64.73 billion allocated for 4Ps in 2015 can be used to hire 100,00 more teachers at the proposed ₱35,000 salary per month and build 45,000 more classrooms with basic amenities. The budget can also be allocated to fund 1.5 million for each of the 42,000 barangays in the country to have basic health facilities. It can also be used to build day care centers or hire additional social workers who will provide services to women and children victims of violence.

Government’s shift to post-2015 development agenda

The government has recognized that achieving the targets of MDG remains a challenge and the goal for poverty, education, and maternal mortality can be unlikely attainable by 2015. The government agency Philippine Institute for Development Studies has estimated that education and maternal health targets will be attained in 2025 and 2021, respectively. (12)

Despite the adjustments made, the targets will still be unattainable by 2025, as long as the government maintains its economic framework of neoliberalism. The data shown in the preceding pages present the negative implication of pursuing the privatization scheme through the public-private partnership program.

For instance, the target of reducing maternal mortality to 52 per 100,000 live births in 2021 will still be unattainable with less than ₱3.00 per capita per day for health. Privatizing social services particularly health services deprives poor women of their much-needed maternal healthcare. Thus, as long as the government’s mindset is making health service a profit-making business, 11 Filipino mothers will still die everyday.

This is also true with the educational system. The 23 million Filipinos who live in dire straits could hardly afford a commercialized education. They need the support from the government. But the priority of government spending in education is more on infrastructure and partnership with the business sector. In this way, not all children from aged 6 – 14 can complete their studies.

MDGs as mere promises to be broken?

The cliche “promises are made to be broken” seems appropriate in reviewing the fulfillment of targets for MDGs. The factors revolving the attainment of MDG need to be scrutinized if the targets are indeed realizable.

First, who are the main players or pledgers? The major players or pledgers of MDG are the member-states of the United Nations. Most of the member-states are governments that adhere to the neoliberal policies and even to neocolonial partnerships with the ruling nations like the United States.

Specifically in the Philippines, the government of BS Aquino remains steadfast in implementing privatization, liberalization, and deregulation. He even offers the country freely to the United States for military operations through the recent Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Thus, there is no sign of Mr. Aquino in slowing down neoliberalist policies just to answer the targets of MDG.

The Philippine government has been a signatory of almost all UN declarations and documents like in the field of human rights. But it has yet to show its commitment and political will in carrying out the declarations and documents.

Second, given the policy framework of the government, how can MDG be attained? It can never be attained as long as neoliberalism is the framework of the government.

Third, if it is unattainable, why then did the Philippine government commits and promotes MDG? It is serving its purpose by showing to the people that the government is performing its duty, hoping that it will douse the intense clamor of the people for change. The MDG targets or goals can even be used by the government to rationalize its objective of pushing for the full implementation of neoliberal policies in the country.

MDG, as mentioned earlier, is a rhetoric answer to the legitimate demands of the people. A realization of a healthy, developed, empowered women and children requires a paradigm shift and not just a pledge for MDG. This means that the country moves forward by making its government fulfill its responsibility of providing basic services rather than allowing business/private sector to take the lead. This entails an overhauling of economic framework that will place services first than profit. It is only then that we can hit a bull’s eye on the right target.

(1) NEDA. Millennium Development Goal. 5Th Progress Report, 2014
(2) PPP Center. What is public-private partnership?
(3) National Nutrition Council, June 2014
(4) Ibid.
(5) Rich-poor divide in PH widening. July 10, 2013
(6) MGD 5th Progresss Report
(7) Philippine Statistics Office. Philippine National Health Accounts. 2012
(8) Department of Budget and Management. General Appropriations Act, 2000, 2005, 2010
(9) Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines
(11) Equipment costs are based on actual procurement of DoH, 2012
(12) Roehlano Briones, “Millenium Development Goals Scenarios to 2015 and Beyond: an integral micro-macro modeling approach”, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, February 2014.

ULAT LILA 2014: The situation of Filipino women amidst worsening crisis and disaster


Throughout the world, the Philippines has been regarded as one of the best places for women, based from the results of the 2013 Global Gender Gap Index. The Philippines ranked 5th, three levels higher than in 2012 and highest in the Asia Pacific. It even surpassed many developed countries such as United Kingdom, Canada, France and the United States.

Alongside with this, the Aquino government boasts of the rising econonomy, the 7.2% growth in the gross domestic product (GDP), using as basis the 33% increase in foreign domestic investments and the Philippine stock exchange reaching its all time high record. President Benigno Simeon (BS) Aquino III attributes this growth to his good governance in line with the slogan “matuwid na daan”. He assures the Filipino people of the inclusiveness of growth because it is in the core value of his programs.

However, the majority of the Filipino women consider such “inclusive growth” as elusive since despite the declaration of growth, they still experience unemployment, price surges, lack of social services, and disasters that aggravate the violence they experience everyday.

Such condition of women is the effect of the Aquino government's adherence to the neoliberal framework of development that favors the local and foreign businesses over national interest. So despite ranking fifth in the latest Global Gender Gap Index, Filipino women still bear the brunt of exploitation and oppression due to the following factors:

1. “ Inclusive growth” for the rich

Filipino women, along with the rest of the people, do not feel the inclusiveness of growth when poverty incidence remains high at 25.2%. Despite having an expensive poverty reduction program like the conditional cash transfer (CCT), poverty incidence did not significantly change from 26.6% in 2006. Conservative estimation has recorded 23.7 million poor Filipinos, where the highest incidence were located in ARMM, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Bicol and CARAGA.

To cope with hunger, poor families have lessened their food intake and have developed terms to cope with hunger, such as the following:

• Memorize or Imagine – families visualize delicious and nutritious food while eating rice with salt or fish sauce
• Practice – families adjust and reduce their food intake in anticipation of a decreasing supply of food in the coming days
• “Peking duck” – a new term for “pagpag” (dusting off), referring to leftovers from restaurants, which families collect from the garbage and cook as their meal for the day
• AlTangHap – eating one full meal for a day, already covering almusal (breakfast), tanghalian (lunch), and hapunan (dinner).
• Piso-piso – junk food, which costs ₱1.00, serves as viand for poor families

Joblessness is still a perennial problem despite the rising economy. Unemployment rate was at 6.5% in October 2013 while underemployment was 17.9%. More than one million Filipino women were unemployed. There remained a huge gap in the labor participation rate among men and women. In 2013, about 9.5 million women were not considered as part of the labor force.

For those who were able to get a job, most of them (35%) were laborers and unskilled workers earning an average wage of ₱150.00. About 16% were service workers, receiving a low wage of about ₱200.00. Worse, government statistics even counted the 2.3 million women who were unpaid family workers as employed. Massive contractualization and the two-tiered wage policy worsened the situation of women workers.

Peasant women who comprise the majority of Filipino women, carry the burden of the long-standing issue of landlessness and the dwindling government support for agriculture. Seven out of ten peasant families still do not have their own land to till. Landlessness and landgrabbing have forced many of the peasant families to work in agricultural plantations, mostly foreign-owned where they get an average basic pay of ₱148.00. Women farmworkers also get, at the average, 15% lower basic pay than men. While the government opens up the industry to global trade and lessens its support in agriculture, the livelihood of rural families dwindles.

Poverty caused by landlessness and lack of decent jobs compelled many women to work abroad. Based from POEA data, in 2012, an average of 683 Filipino women were deployed daily to work in other countries. Most of them were in services (76%), working as domestic helpers, cleaners or cooks - jobs that are vulnerable to abuses due to the private nature of their work.

While the Filipino women are largely excluded in the so called-inclusive economic growth, the economy is very favorable and accomodating to local and foreign businesses. The net income of the 50 richest families in the Philippines is equivalent to 25% of the country’s GDP. The railroading of charter change in congress to further liberalize the economy will give more way to foreign market interests and big local businessmen.

2. Surging prices of commodities and services

The uncontrollable price increase due to liberalization and deregulation adds burden to women who usually budget the family's meager income.

Rice, the Filipinos' staple food, has increased by ₱2.00 to ₱8.00 for every kilo. As discussed earlier, dire poverty forced poor families to change their eating lifestyles. They have nothing to eat but rice and salts, fishsauce or salty junk foods. Thus, the increase in the price of rice is a huge burden for them.

LPG, an important utility used by women, has increased its price by ₱100.00 to ₱180.00 per 11-kg tank. Prices in Metro Manila rose from ₱700.00 in 2012 to more than ₱900.00 in 2013. Higher prices were recorded in Mindanao and the Visayas even before typhoon Yolanda lashed Eastern Visayas.

The deregulation of the oil industry caused the vulnerability of oil prices to spike up and down, though most of the time, it goes up. For example, in 2013, CWR monitored that the price of diesel increased 23 times while it decreased only 16 times. This resulted to the net increase in the price of diesel by ₱4.68.

Water, electricity, and fare in MRT and LRT are subject to increase. Water rates will increase by 21% to 30%. Power has been steadily increasing since the implementation of EPIRA in 2001. The latest proposal of Meralco – the top grosser company in the country - is to add ₱4.25 per kWh in its rate, citing losses and necessary improvements as reasons for the increase. The MRT/ LRT fare proposes 25% to 67% hike. These proposed rate hikes in water, electricity, and MRT/LRT fare are only restrained temporarily by the massive assertion and resistance by the people.

3. Corruption eats up services for the people

The latest news on corruption, the ₱10-billion PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam involving Janel Napoles and a number of senators and congressmen, further deprived women and their families the necessary social services. The public's rage has forced Pres. Aquino to modify the concept of PDAF but at the same time, he strongly defended the presidential funds that are disposed at his discretion.

Aside from PDAF, there are numerous corruption issues that haunted Pres. BS Aquino, such as: (1) technical smuggling in import products such as rice, onions, meat and oil; (2) the extortion cases involving presidential sister Ballsy Aquino; (3) huge bonuses for top officials of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) such as SSS and Philhealth, (4) the misuse of disaster funds, and (5) the disbursement acceleration program (DAP), which was said to be used to bribe senators in the Corona impeachment.

As the corruption charges piled up, the people have realized that the country has enough money to supposedly provide for social services. That is why, the government's claim of having few resources to deliver affordable and efficient services is unacceptable. With enough money, women could not see the reason why the government needs to resort to partner with private corporations through Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.

4. Profit before service

Several contracts in social services has already been awarded to the private sector, for example, the Megawide-BF Construction in PPP in School Building program. Real estate companies are also encouraged to build “low cost” housing units in exchange of several tax incentives. There is also the looming privatization of all the 72 DoH-run hospitals, including Fabella maternity hospital. Surely, with the private sector handling the services, profit will be considered more than service.

The supposedly “inclusive budget” indicates only the same priorities of the government. Debt servicing still eats a large chunk of the people’s budget. Budget for defense is also huge, which is 40% higher than the budget for health.

Education budget increased by 14.9% from P293.3 billion to P336.9 billion. Still, the budget is only 2.3% of the country’s GDP, way below UNESCO’s recommendation. It still lags behind neigboring countries in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Viet Nam that allot an average of 4.1% equivalent of their GDP in education. Further, the budget has increased but not the salary of teachers and non-teaching personnel who are mostly women. A portion of the budget, some P15 billion will be for the construction of 15,619 classrooms. Such construction is not to address the backlogs in classrooms but for the expected senior high school students for 2016 because of the K+12 program. The K+12 program has long been opposed by students and parents because it is an additional expense to families. Also, K+12 program will only produce cheap labor to serve the market intests of local and foreign businesses.

The ₱10.2 billion budget for housing is for the relocation, tantamount to demolition of 26,367 informal settler families in “danger areas” especially those located along the waterways in Metro Manila.

5. Government neglect, unpreparedness and militarist response in times of disaster

Filipino women faced a number of crises in 2013 that remained unanswered – the crisis in Sabah, Zamboanga siege and militarization, massive floods in Central Luzon and Mindanao, earthquakes in Bohol and Cebu, among others. But the most glaring disaster that caught international concern was the effect of Supertyphoon Haiyan/ Yolanda.

The effect was glaring because of the neglect, unpreparedness, and militarist response by Pres. BS Aquino. More than 6,200 were dead and 28,00 were injured. More than 1,000 are still missing. Two to three bodies are still found everyday. Many of the victims are women and children. Almost 80% of Eastern Visayas have been completely devastated.

Haiyan/ Yolanda survivors recounted that instead of bringing food and medicines right after the typhoon, the government deployed many police and soldiers purportedly to “keep peace and order”. The US government likewise deployed 13,000 US servicemen to conduct “humanitarian relief mission”. Sadly, the disaster became the reason for a smoother military deployment in the region. It is well known that there is ongoing talks with the increased rotational presence of US troops in the Philippines in line with the strategic US Pivot in Asia-Pacific.

Rescue and relief was very slow despite the pouring of local and international aid. The planned rehabilitation was offered to 18 big companies, which divided the region like a pie. Eastern Visayas was promoted as open-for-business for Aquino’s PPP program.

6. Intensified crises result to intensified violence

While women face these crises, they also experienced different forms of violence. At least forty five cases per day of domestic violence were recorded in 2013. This was 43% higher than in 2012. This means that one woman was beaten every 31 minutes.

Reported cases of rape also increased by 24% from 5,180 in 2012 to 6,432 in 2013. This translates to one woman or child raped every hour and 21 minutes, where 75% of the victims were children.

Different forms of harassment have also been experienced by women and children. One woman or child were reportedly harassed every two hours and 25 minutes.

Trafficking cases were also recorded. With the devastation in Eastern Visayas and with the slow government response to the needs of the people, many women have been lured by illegal recruiters to work in the cities. By nature, women tend to look for means to feed their families that is why they are more vulnerable to illegal recruitment and trafficking.

Women as a Major Force

With the intensified crisis and violence, comes the resistance from women and the people. The state answers such assertion with repression and human rights violations. There have been 152 victims of extrajudicial killings under the Aquino administration, 18 of them were women. Some of those who fight against anti-people policies are harassed and detained. As of August last year, there have been 34 women political prisoners in various jails in the country.

Assertion may result to repression. But such repression will result to more assertion from the people who desire for a transformed society, for a better Philippines. Women are a major force in making the transformation of society a reality.

For reference, contact:
Cham Perez, 09156531122|(02)4112796