Press Releases Archived (February 2015)

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The Department of Education`s (DepEd) School-Based Feeding Program (SBFP) is a "well-managed" program according to a study recently released by state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). However, study authors of the study have also identified vital areas that require improvement. Authors Dr. Jose Ramon G. Albert, Ana Maria L. Tabunda and Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa, PIDS senior research fellow, chief research fellow at Pulse Asia, and scientist at the Department of Science and Technology, respectively, recommend that the government address important implementation challenges, which include increasing the budget per child and for administrative and monitoring purposes.

The program`s short history has seen moderate success to develop the learning capabilities of malnourished young children by improving their health and nutrition. The initial results of the study were discussed by a panel of DepED officers and PIDS researchers at a seminar held at PIDS recently.

Most of the discussions revolved around the finer details of the SBFP such as the budget and time constraints on the program, which the authors included in their observations.

Beyond implementation and budget increase recommendations, the attendees agreed that the SBFP would benefit greatly from strengthening the links of interagency cooperation. Efforts of local government units and other stakeholders should converge to complement SBFP with community-based activities.

According to the World Food Programme, food for education (FFE) programs like SBFP in the Philippines is adopted across developing countries "as a mechanism to accelerate the achievements of some of the Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on hunger and poverty (MDG 1), education (MDG 2), and gender equality (MDG 3)".

Although considered a temporary fix to address large social problems, the SBFP works on the premise that there exists a strong correlation between health, nutrition, and school performance. Tracing its roots to the 1997 FFE blueprint to address short-term hunger, the SBFP goal has evolved "to rehabilitate severely wasted children to normal nutrition status and improve their classroom attendance".

Albert and his co-researchers reviewed the conduct of the SBFP in eight schools across the country during school year 2013-2014. They analyzed the results against the program`s objectives: (1) that 70 percent of the beneficiaries must have been rehabilitated at the end of the 100-120 day feeding program, (2) that 85-100 percent of the beneficiaries attend school, and (3) that there is observable improvement in health, nutrition values, and behavior.

The researchers interviewed the team of school parents, teachers, parent volunteers, and DepED staff who together handle the procurement of supplies and finances, and conduct deworming and other complementary programs that enhance the results, which include waste management, in-house gardening, and health monitoring. They were interviewed about the programs procedures, issues, challenges and lessons, the performance of the children, and how they perceived the implementation and management of the SBFP.

The researchers found out that beneficiaries and stakeholders laud the program.

The hands-on attitude of the DepED provincial division staff made it easy for the schools to implement the SBFP, especially where it concerned financial and procurement procedures. The division staff also made it clear to the beneficiary parents that it is important to ensure proper nutrition in their own households to sustain their children`s nutritional progress.

As a result, the health, class attendance and performance, and social behavior of the students improved. The program, the researchers noted, also helped cultivate a culture of care and active participation among all stakeholders.

Amid all the success, however, the researchers point out important challenges, starting with data gathering inconsistences and the lack of standard weighing measurement.

Clearly, any encoding and measurement errors on the nutrition status data have implications on the targeting accuracy of the program as well as on correct assessment as to whether stated goals are attained (or not), according to the study.

This threatens to misclassify the nutrition status of children, which may cause fundamental problems for the program. Classification not only determines the effectivity of the program, but is also crucial to building the database of identified malnourished children.

Furthermore, issues with procurement and liquidation procedures resulted in delays and sometimes discontinuation of the program. Difficulty and unfamiliarity with bureaucratic processes hindered the program to meet its objectives.

Lastly, the researchers recommend that the budget of 16 pesos per beneficiary for food be reviewed and augmented.

These findings concur with experts` views that while the SBFP can help meet MDG targets, it is not enough to end hunger, especially not for those who are already in the most vulnerable bracket and are experiencing chronic poverty. Policymaking must be complementary and comprehensive.

Several bills have already been filed to institutionalize the school feeding program. Senator Sonny Angaras Senate Bill No. 2020 and Senator Grace Poes Senate Bill No. 79 generally try to address the budgeting challenges.

But as the study shows, focusing on improving the logistics of how the SBFP is implemented and carried out is just as crucial to meeting the program`s objectives and improving the nutrition and education of the country`s most vulnerable young children.

You may download a copy of the study by clicking this link: http://dirp3.pids.gov.ph/webportal/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidspn1501.pdf

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State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has scheduled a forum addressing the need to boost the countrys education system through a recent development in distance education called Massive Open Online Courses.

The seminar titled `Distance Education through the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)` is scheduled for Monday, 27 January 2015, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Romulo Hall of the NEDA sa Makati Bldg., 106 Amorsolo St., Legaspi Village, Makati City.

Marito Garcia, PhD, an adviser to the World Bank and currently an adjunct faculty at the Darden Business School, University of Virginia, is the seminar`s main resource speaker. Garcia will discuss new ideas on how MOOCs can be tapped to support service delivery in the education sector.

The MOOCs is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access of online users. Apart from available traditional course materials such as filmed lectures, readings, and problem sets, MOOCs are highly interactive providing users support from online communities composed of students, professors, and teaching assistants. MOOCs was first introduced in 2008 and emerged as a popular mode of learning in 2012.

Garcia noted the low world ranking of the Philippine education system by citing the 2003 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Results show the country at 41st place in science and 42nd in math among 45 countries. The country`s ranking has not improved since 1999, reflecting that the Philippine education system is in dire need of improvement. The Philippines has not participated in the 2007 and 2011 surveys.

Garcia, who is also former Lead Economist and Sector Manager for Education in Latin America and the Caribbean at the World Bank, will also present the `Big Results Now` approach to enhance student outcomes, supported by information technology (IT) and MOOCs. Learning at scale is now made possible with the emerging use of IT and the `cloud technology` and by `big data analytics`. His talk will address the challenges in broadband, device, and content, which are key to access, equity, and quality of education.

The seminar will be streamed live via the PIDS website (www.pids.gov.ph).

For inquiries, you may reach us through telephone numbers 893-5705 (c/o Ms. Necy Aquino) and 892-4059 (c/o Ms. Necy Aquino or Ms. Misha Borbon), fax number 893-9589 or e-mail address: naquino@mail.pids.gov.ph.

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The Philippines can continue to reinforce the importance of global value chains (GVCs) when the country hosts the Asia-Pacific Economic meeting this year, recommends a study released by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

The Policy Note, `Why global value chains and services matter: Implication for APEC 2015`, authored by PIDS Senior Research Fellow, Dr. Ramonette Serafica, depicts the aggregated GVC participation index of countries in the Asia-Pacific Region and demonstrates how GVCs dominate global trade. Serafica also underlines the opportunities in undertaking further analytical work on services GVCs.

Global value chains are the sequence of activities around the world involved in the conception, production, distribution, usage, and other activities that add value to a product.

Serafica highlights the benefits of GVCs for independent economies and the Asia-Pacific region and measures the extent of involvement of each individual economy through a participation index.

The opportunities to increase and optimize GVC participation are plenty for APEC, claims Serafica.

The trend for APEC nations is to target GVCs and segments that are congruent with the advantages and development objectives of their individual economies. Depending on the GVC requirements, APEC member countries can design business facilitation measures and investment policies to encourage growth.

With the right measures, individual economies can help capitalize on these advantages and create new specializations.

Still there are risks to consider.

GVC benefits are limited by the share of value added in the chain that a country is able to capture. Moreover, there are environmental and socio-cultural effects. And countries that become increasingly embedded in GVCs grow increasingly vulnerable to external shocks.

Expanding a country`s share of value added in the services GVC depend largely on the quality of infrastructure and efficient services markets. APEC nations are collaborating to improve the transport sector, business services, telecommunications, and distribution channels.

Overall, the challenge is in creating the environment for GVCs to thrive in the Asia-Pacific region.

Serafica recommends that as the APEC 2015 host, the Philippines should build on the work already started and expand opportunities by undertaking further analytical work that focuses on the case studies of regional services value chains.

There aren`t sufficient studies on the important role of services in GVCs and the potential for the region and the individual economies to benefit from the growth of services value chains, especially where small and medium enterprises, which are most engaged in GVCs, can better access them.

The policy note recommends that studies be conducted on the following: input-output structure or the activities and segments in a services GVC and the corresponding structure of companies that participate in each activity or segment; geographic scope to understand the country-level positions within the chain; governance structure to understand the power dynamics that affect allocation and flow of resources within a chain; and the institutional framework, to understand the global conditions and policies that affect each stage of the GVC.

The Philippines should also encourage the analysis of upgrading strategies undertaken by countries, regions and other economic stakeholders to move to higher-value activities in GVCs so as to increase the benefits captured.

`Given the Philippines` comparative advantage in `other business services` and in `computer and information services`, advancing regional cooperation in services value chains can further strengthen our export position in these activities,` notes Serafica.

Overall, the input from the recommended studies, research and analysis would help individual countries and the region to improve trade and investment policies, promote global services value chains growth, and ensure that individual economies capture the full benefits. #


You may download the full study from this link:
http://dirp3.pids.gov.ph/webportal/CDN/PUBLICATIONS/pidspn1422_rev.pdf

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The Philippines is not prepared to detect and prevent the complications, including resistance to treatment, posed by the tandem of tuberculosis (TB) and diabetes mellitus (DM).

Researchers of state think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), led by Dr. Emmanuel S. Baja, urge national health agencies to work together to initiate research studies and produce a coordinated response to detect, prevent, and manage the deadly TB-DM tandem in a study released by PIDS. The output of Bajas study is part of the Health System Research Management Project of the PIDS and the Department of Health (DOH).

The International Diabetes Foundation stated in their 2014 report that people with diabetes are prone to contracting tuberculosis. In countries where there is a rising rate of diabetes, there is an alarming and significantly matching spike in tuberculosis. The compounded infection makes it hard for patients with both TB and DM to respond to treatment.

The World Health Organization in 2011 reported that TB patients who are diagnosed with diabetes have a higher mortality risk.
At present, the Philippines is ranked 15 as an emerging diabetes hotspot. At the same time, the country also has one of the highest notified cases of multidrug resistant TB.

The study also revealed that the DDO staff believed that screening for TB-DM is important and challenging, but they didn`t necessarily view the tandem as a public health issue.

To understand the current state of health programs to address the TB-DM tandem, the PIDS research team surveyed the level of awareness and vigilance among medical practitioners to test TB patients for DM and vice versa.

Majority of surveyed physicians could adequately identify observable symptoms, and correctly answered questions about diagnostic tests for either disease. However, less than half appeared confident about the prevalence and risks of contracting both disease.

More than two thirds do agree that screening for TB in DM patients and DM in TB patients should be performed. About a half of them agree that a TB-DM tandem presents difficulties in treatment.

Focus group discussions with the staff of the National TB Control Program (NTBCP) and the Degenerative Diseases Office (DDO) of the DOH were conducted to determine the current level of coordinated action to control and prevent the TB-DM tandem, as well as evaluate the costs of bidirectional screening.

The study found the lack of consensus among the staff of these agencies on how to address the TB-DM, despite the 2011 WHO recommendation for countries with high rates of either disease to pay attention to the `double burden of disease and the need for joint surveillance, coordinated referral and management systems, a joint research agenda`.

The study also revealed that the DDO staff believed that screening for TB-DM is important and challenging, but they didn`t necessarily view the tandem as a public health issue.

However, the NTBCP disagreed that prevalence of DM in TB patients is an extensive problem, and underlined the concerns that TB diagnosis might stigmatize DM patients.

The study recommends a pilot study on the tandem disease. The current lack of initiative to detect it could be related to the lack of information to guide the change in detection policies.

The costly implementation of bidirectional screening, especially screening TB in DM patients, also compounds the issue.

The PIDS-DOH study strengthens the argument for a more informed study on the issue. It states, `Given the government`s commitment to the nationwide control of TB, the underexplored frontier of TB among diabetic patients can be among the stretch goals towards increased case detection, management and prevention efforts.`

The national agencies overseeing the care and control of TB and DM need to cooperate to increase awareness among health workers and the general public about the prevalence and risks of the tandem disease. They have to coordinate their respective policies, programs, and operations, including bidirectional screening, to detect and manage it.



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A study by the state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies is calling for the expansion of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation`s (PhilHealth) health coverage for catastrophic illnesses through private supplemental insurance.

According to the PIDS study, titled `Exploring private supplemental insurance for catastrophic illnesses`, authored by Noel Juban and Benito R. Reverente, the PhilHealth `Z` package, designed to address catastrophic cases, has limited funding and covers only certain types of diseases, with a few selected government hospitals providing these benefits. Also, there are certain criteria that have to be met before a patient can be eligible to avail of the Z benefits such as age and severity of disease. Thus, having a supplemental fund could increase the scope of this program.

Launched in June 2012, the PhilHealth `Z` Benefits program provides financial coverage of Php100,000 to Php300,000 for catastrophic cases such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, acute lymphocytic leukemia, kidney transplant, limb prosthesis, coronary artery bypass graft surgery, surgery for tetralogy of Fallot, and surgery for ventricular septal defect.
Based on the definition of the World Health Organization, out-of-pocket expenditure in health can be considered `catastrophic` if it exceeds 40 percent of a household`s nonfood expenses.

The Z benefits cover all diagnosis and treatment expenses, such as hospital fees, professional fees, medicines, and mandatory laboratory examinations.

Protection from catastrophic health expenditures is an essential component of the government`s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (Health for All) program. Juban and Reverente argued that catastrophic illnesses can push a family into poverty. They explained that the frequent, prolonged hospitalization and very expensive treatments associated with these illnesses could result in high out-of-pocket (OOP) payments, depleting the financial resources of a household, especially the poor.

`Hence, without adequate financial risk protection, any health condition may cause catastrophic expenditures and impoverishment, depending on the income of the affected household and the cost of the management for the condition,` the authors stated.

According to the WHO, up to 11 percent of the population in some countries experience severe financial hardship each year due to health expenses, with up to 5 percent forced into poverty. In Asia, the Philippines has one of the lowest percentages and intensities of catastrophic payments. It is estimated that 4.6 percent of Philippine households incur catastrophic payments at threshold OOP of 10 percent of the total expenditures on health care.

The study, an output of the PIDS-DOH health system research management project, noted that a supplemental fund from the private sector for catastrophic illness financing is currently not feasible. However, the study suggests that PhilHealth could tap the private sector in providing financial protection for catastrophic illnesses.

`Utilizing the private sector to address the limitations of the current Z benefits packages will enable the government to provide financial protection to more Filipinos and come closer to providing quality health care for all,` the study noted.

The study suggested for Philhealth to set up a supplemental fund that can operate like a private insurance. It will be a voluntary insurance scheme that PhilHealth members can avail of for themselves to obtain additional benefits. It however cautioned that this would require additional manpower, infrastructure, information technology, and capacity building for the management of a fund.

Another avenue is for PhilHealth to outsource the management of supplemental funds to HMOs. In either scenario, the premiums can either be contributed by the private sector or paid for by the government through taxes.

`Since the private health maintenance organization (HMO) market is driven by competition and profit, PhilHealth should cover individuals who are likely to be rejected by HMO coverage, such as the poor and high-risk patients. Likewise, PhilHealth should conduct actuarial studies to provide accurate costing and incidence data, to be used in the formulation of the Z benefit packages to ensure that the funds remain viable,' it further recommended.

The study also called for the enhancement of the existing setup where the private sector provides supplemental insurance through HMOs, insurance companies, and self-insured companies. The government could give tax incentives to companies that provide catastrophic illness coverage for employees, either through HMOs or self-insurance.

It further pointed the need to regulate HMOs through the Insurance Commission (IC), the government agency that regulates and supervises the insurance and preneed industries. The IC, it noted, should be able to review the premiums of HMOs and examine their financial viability.

`There is no single body responsible or appropriate for the regulation of HMOs. The DOH can partially regulate the health aspect of HMOs through licensing. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), on the other hand, registers, but does not regulate, HMOs. Neither the DOH nor the SEC is able to assess the financial sustainability of HMOs,` the study noted.

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State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies welcomed former Energy Secretary Atty. Raphael Perpetuo M. Lotilla last December 16 as the new member of its Board of Trustees. He took his oath before PIDS Board Chairman and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan at the NEDA Head Office in Pasig.

Atty. Lotilla brings to the Board his vast experience from years of government service and leadership. He replaces Dr. Maria Cynthia Rose Banzon-Bautista whose term as PIDS Board member ended.

Aside from his stint at the Department of Energy from 2005 to 2007, Atty. Lotillas sterling credentials include teaching at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and serving as former Deputy Director General of NEDA, President and CEO of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM), and the Regional Programme Director of Partnerships in Environmental Managements for the Seas of East Asia.

Representing NEDA Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan, NEDA Deputy Director General Emmanuel F. Esguerra confidently assured that, `with his participation in the PIDS Board of Trustees, the PIDS will continue to be the respected and prestigious institution that it is.`

Atty. Lotilla was grateful for the welcome. He used the moment to thank his co-honoree and outgoing board member Dr. Banzon-Bautista. `The legacy that she leaves is a challenge not only for me but to all those who will be succeeding her,` he said.

Dr. Banzon-Bautista, currently a CHED commissioner, was lauded at the dinner event by her peers and colleagues for eight years of meritorious service as member of the Board.

`Besides being a sociologist and educator, she is one of the countrys voices for educational reforms, and she has held many roles in her career: as a professor, researcher, department chair, dean, policy research director, CHED commissioner, and member of international advisory boards " the list goes on,` enumerated Dr. Sheila V. Siar of the PIDS Research Information Department who served as the event`s master of ceremonies.

PIDS Senior Research Fellow Dr. Aniceto C. Orbeta added to the praise, `I`ll not be very off if I say because of her words of endorsement for PIDS, PIDS has become respected by many universities. Because of that, and on behalf of the PIDS research family, I`d like to say thanks.`

Esguerra, on behalf of Secretary Balisacan, presented Dr. Bautista with a plaque of recognition and appreciation for `her distinguished contributions to the sociological aspects of the Institutes development policy research agenda and program, and her genuine concern for the welfare of the institute as a whole.`

PIDS President Gilberto Llanto reflected, It`s the good fortune of PIDS that the membership of the board comes from the rank of professionals and people with integrity. [That way] it`s shielded from political intervention. That`s the secret behind the kind of reputation and good name that PIDS has earned through the years. We`ll continue with this, and it will be so in the future.`

The honorees both expressed their appreciation over the festivities and their sincere and deepest gratitude to the Institute. Dr. Bautista bid her colleagues an amicable farewell, `I`m very proud of PIDS, and I know you will be moving from strength to strength. Thank you very much, I`m not used to this, but I am deeply touched.`

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Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mechanism is one way to build infrastructure in the ASEAN, especially in member-states where public funds are insufficient to finance infrastructure development.

In a book published by the Economic Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) titled `Financing ASEAN Connectivity,` the authors, composed of 13 ASEAN scholars and experts, stressed the important role of PPP in achieving the objectives of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity.

ASEAN has a goal to create an economic community by 2015. To achieve this goal, connectivity among the member-states needs to be given due importance. In 2010, ASEAN adopted the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), which looked at physical, institutional, and people-to-people connectivity.

However, there are certain obstacles that are unique to each member-state when it comes to financing infrastructure projects. This book provides a comprehensive picture of the infrastructure situation and policy in 10 ASEAN member-states. It takes into account innovative ways of financing infrastructure development that suit specific countries.

ASEAN member-states have different levels of infrastructure policy, financing method, and financial capacity. For example, the PPP program has been significantly developed and used in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, and recently, in Singapore. Cambodia and Vietnam, meanwhile, have not yet formalized the PPP although private sector participation has become increasingly important in infrastructure development in these countries. Laos and Myanmar have potentials, although are facing multiple challenges from lack of fiscal sources to lack of fiscal sustainability. Meanwhile, PPP still takes less significant role in Brunei, which has abundant public financial resources to build infrastructure.

The country report for the Philippines, authored by Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) President Gilberto Llanto and Senior Research Fellow Adoracion Navarro, identifies some infrastructure development challenges and provides policy recommendations on how to improve financing and implementation of these projects.

Challenges include underinvestment in infrastructure development, with infrastructure spending as a share of GDP averaging at only at 1.40 to 2.09 percent in 2008 to 2012. At the same time, governments dependence on official development assistance as source of financing for infrastructure projects has declined in the past few years. As a result, the country has lagged behind most of its ASEAN neighbors in upgrading the quality of its infrastructure.

Llanto and Navarro also noted some delays in the implementation of PPP projects in the Philippines mainly because government units lack the capacity to ensure project quality-at-entry and efficiency in the processing of PPPs. In addition, the PPP law is inadequate in dealing with competition and implementation problems.

Despite these obstacles, the authors gave a positive outlook for the Philippine governments fiscal health as well as the opportunities presented by new sources for financing infrastructure projects. However, they noted that it is not really the availability of financial resources that is primarily restraining infrastructure development in the Philippines but the pace at which investments are being pursued.

`An effective infrastructure financing strategy must not only focus on resource availability for the hard infrastructure but also on means to facilitate the way projects are identified, designed, proposed, reviewed, and implemented.` Llanto and Navarro concluded.

The book on Financing ASEAN Connectivity is available at PIDS Library (Open from 8 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Mondays to Thursdays), 5/F NEDA sa Makati Building, 106 Amorsolo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City###