Press Releases Archived (April 2016)

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State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), in coordination with the Cordillera Studies Center, University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio, will be hosting a policy research form on Human Capital: Health, Education, and Building Resilience at the Abraham Sarmiento Hall, Alumni Center, UP Baguio on April 6, Wednesday.

Two studies will be presented at the seminar. One is on the results of an impact evaluation study on the Department of Education's (DepED) School-Based Feeding Program to be presented by PIDS Consultant and Pulse Asia Research Director Ana Maria Tabunda. The other paper is on managing risks and building resilience by PIDS President Gilberto Llanto.

As the country looks forward to weighing candidate profiles in the upcoming elections, the subject of evaluating government policies is equally critical to the pursuit of good governance. The School-Based Feeding Program is an intervention developed by the national government to weaken the link relating absenteeism, early dropout and poor classroom performance as a direct result of malnutrition and poor health among elementary children.

The program's performance and impact were evaluated for the first time by Tabunda, who is also a professor at the School of Statistics in UP Diliman, and fellow researchers Jose Ramon Albert, senior fellow at the PIDS, and Imelda Angeles-Agdeppa. The study covers the school year (SY) 2013-2014, when the government spent PHP 77.493 million to target the feeding of 40,361 severely wasted children across the country. For SY 2015-2016, the program has been expanded to cover 532,752 severely wasted children and 627,403 wasted children at a budget of PHP 2.27 billion. Tabunda's presentation will demonstrate the performance and impact of the program, and enumerate policy areas for improvement.

Similarly, the second presentation will touch on the policy areas of risk management and building resilience. Exposure to risk is determined by measuring how much of a country's population is exposed to one or more natural hazards. With the country's geography sitting on a trifecta of environmental disasters--earthquake belt, ring of fire, and typhoon corridor--it is no surprise the Philippines is ranked the third most exposed country.

But policies should not end with managing risks and strengthening resilience to natural disasters alone. Economic and sociopolitical risks exist, too, and entail developing multiple resilient systems. Llanto's study will expound on the policy issues and challenges facing the country's decisionmakers, incumbent and new.

This policy research forum is part of the Institute's program to disseminate findings from studies conducted to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of key government programs and projects. Spearheaded by the National Economic and Development Authority and the Department of Budget and Management, these impact evaluation (IE) studies were conducted to promote greater transparency and accountability in government. Through these IE studies, policymakers and program implementers will have concrete basis in determining whether a particular program is achieving its intended outcomes or whether it needs to be fine-tuned or discontinued. ###


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With the onset of prolonged drought brought by the El Nino phenomenon, irrigation also becomes more important for cultivating crops, especially rice. The government has been investing billions of pesos yearly to develop and maintain irrigation systems. However, despite receiving close to half of the total budget for agriculture in recent years, the irrigation sector has consistently fallen short in delivering what is expected from it.

According to a paper by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) that evaluates the effectiveness and efficiency of the government's irrigation program, the underperformance of the irrigation sector has been due mainly to underdevelopment, mismanagement, and environmental degradation.

In her presentation at a forum organized by PIDS and the Central Luzon State University recently in Nueva Ecija, PIDS Consultant and De La Salle University Associate Professor Arlene Inocencio pointed out some basic technical and institutional issues in feasibility studies, project design, implementation and management, as well as rehabilitation that affect both the national irrigation systems (NIS) and the communal irrigation systems (CIS). NIS refer to large gravity irrigation systems covering more than 1,000 hectares while CIS are typically smaller in size.

For example, total irrigated areas in the country has remained low despite new irrigation projects. Inocencio attributed this to poor planning where built-up areas caused by urbanization, areas that are at risk of flooding, elevated areas that require costly re-pumping, and availability or adequacy of water were not taken into account in the estimation of areas that can be irrigated.

Inocencio also observed that most irrigation systems are experiencing technical problems, such as siltation, inadequate water, and faulty control structures, which need medium- to long-term solutions. She noted that the "catch-all" solution of canal lining will not solve these problems.

Another major concern raised by Inocencio is the conversion of irrigated areas in certain regions to nonagricultural uses. "If the rate of land conversion will continue to rise, estimates of design areas should properly take this into account," Inocencio stated.

The PIDS paper enumerates specific interventions and policy changes needed to improve the provision of irrigation in the country, which include the development of a systematic approach to water allocation and distribution, an integrated development plan, and a review of existing policies and regulations that are hampering the growth of the irrigation sector.

"Good governance of irrigation systems must start with a design that ensures compatibility with operational realities and an acceptable level of financial viability to ensure sustainable performance," Inocencio stressed.

To improve operational performance of irrigation systems, Inocencio suggested that government should shift to a new paradigm of interactive and integrated design. "Design concepts such as maintainability, durability, functionality, operability, and safety should be considered in designing a strategy that is consistent with available water supply, irrigation demand, physical design of structures, and realistic operational plan," she stressed.

The study also recommends to the National Irrigation administration (NIA) and other agencies involved in operations and maintenance of irrigation systems to develop an irrigation and water research and development program. For example, the paper suggests that government should establish and provide core funding for water resource centers in universities composed of technical and socioeconomic experts whom the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the NIA can tap in evaluating irrigation-related projects. "This will strengthen the capacities of NIA, NEDA, and the Department of Agriculture in monitoring and evaluating irrigation projects through the conduct of rigorous and objective analyses to guide their decisions," Inocencio explained.

Inocencio also highlighted the need to clearly define the respective roles of NIA and irrigators associations (IAs) in the irrigation management transfer and to allocate corresponding resources to achieve targets. Under the current setup, NIA delegates partial or full management of irrigation systems to IAs. NIA is allowed to collect irrigation service fees from IAs, with government subsidies for operations and maintenance expenses being gradually phased out and passed on to IAs over a five-year period.

However, majority of IAs do not have the financial capacity to function and be effective. Most IAs are faced with problems of pervasive water theft, members not following the cropping calendar, and most of them still asking for resources for operations and maintenance such as payment for electricity bill.

Based on the IAs surveyed by the research team, it appears that "successful" IAs are characterized as those with adequate water supply, less institutional problems, adequate budget and facilities, machineries, and equipment. "If we take these factors as indicative of necessary requirements for successful IAs, then at the minimum, NIA's system design and service areas should have better estimates of available water," Inocencio said.

Likewise, the issue of equity in the delivery of service remains a major concern given the heavily disadvantaged downstream IAs that are confronted with inadequate water during dry season and more water than they need during wet season. Therefore, Inocencio suggested that NIA should come up with a better strategy to address this aspect of equity as part of improving the quality of irrigation service.

The study, which evaluated 66 CIS and 22 NIS in 16 provinces in Luzon, is part of a research project by PIDS to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of key government programs and projects. Spearheaded by the NEDA and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), these impact evaluation (IE) studies were conducted to promote greater transparency and accountability in government. IE is a special type of research that allows policymakers and program implementers to ascertain whether a particular program is achieving its objectives and whether the results are attributable to the intervention. ###

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Baguio City, the capital of Benguet Province, was flagged a few years back by a World Wide Fund for Nature study as the most vulnerable Philippine city to climate change and other socioeconomic threats. Because of its dense population, topography, and largely ill-planned urbanization, Baguio's ability to adapt and respond to such risks was judged inadequate. As part of a conscious effort to turn things around, the city held its first-ever city-wide earthquake drill in March. Following this, on April 6, part of Baguio City's academic community participated in a forum highlighting the importance of building a multiple resilience system.

The policy research forum on Human Capital: Health, Education, and Building Resilience was held at the University of the Philippines Baguio, co-hosted by the Cordillera Studies Center (CSC) and state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Dr. Gilberto Llanto, PIDS president, presented his paper on Risks, Shocks, and Building Resilience: Philippines, profiling the risk landscape faced by the country, the nature of interconnectedness of risks, and the importance of creating a policy framework for building resilience at every level of society.
According to Llanto, risks do not occur in isolation but rather in a wide network. As an example, Llanto cited the link between food and energy crises. The trade-off of choosing to allocate resources to address the need for renewable energy was the fatal spike in food prices.

Closer to home, Llanto explained how the economic slowdown in China directly affects the growth of commodity-exporting countries like the Philippines. China is one of the Philippines' largest exporting partners.

Similarly, while the recent falling oil prices was met with elation from the Philippines' transport sector, it greatly affected the economic health of oil-exporting countries. In turn, the oil-exporting countries, which also happened to host large contingents of Overseas Filipino Workers, were forced to send back their foreign workers to their remittance-dependent homes.

Apart from being interconnected, risks are, by nature, also constantly evolving. Therefore, managing and responding to them requires multiple resilient systems.

"The Philippines is particularly challenged to build economic resilience because of its high risk exposure and vulnerability, explained somewhat by its geographical location," said Llanto. "It is difficult to manage risks. But it is possible."

A huge stumbling block in the process of risk management is the dearth of policy-oriented research and the absence of a resilience system. Although it has the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) in place, the country has yet to paint a comprehensive picture of the countrys risk landscape, making it difficult to build the appropriate response framework.

"You need good policy interventions, and good policies rely on good research," Llanto said.
He warned, "Exposure to bad policies will exacerbate one's vulnerability."

Thus, dealing with risks is not solely the job of policymakers or the NDRRMC. Communities have to work together to figure out how to handle and manage the risks and shocks faced by their community at the ground level.

In sum, the country has to work together at every level to make resilience thinking a habit. A multiple resilience system must be built and founded on sound research and analysis, capable of identifying the wide array of vulnerabilities and adapting to the ever-evolving nature of risks.

For more information about this event and Llanto's study, please visit this link: http://www.pids.gov.ph/seminarsupdate.php?pr=299. ###

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The European migrant crisis will not have large, adverse effects on the Philippines, according to a Malta-based economist in a presentation at a seminar hosted by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) last April 11.

While the distance between Europe and the Philippines makes it difficult to imagine how the crisis can affect the country, the breakdown of trust among European nations and the tightening of borders put free movement in the continent at risk, while hostilities against migrants intensify.

But according to Prof. Lino Briguglio of the University of Malta, Filipinos who work in the European Union (EU) need not worry about the crisis.

"The Filipino people have a very good reputation in Europe," remarked Briguglio.

"They often occupy jobs that are in demand. The migrant crisis will impact your overseas workforce as far as the tightening of visa rules and requirements is concerned. If the EU collapses, the issue of stricter border rules will be a problem that the whole Europe and other foreigners will face and not just your Filipino expats," he explained further.

Meanwhile, PIDS President Gilberto Llanto said the European migrant crisis has been pegged as one of the big global shocks of this year. Because shocks do not occur in silos, they directly affect other potential and ongoing risks given the interconnected nature of threats to global, regional, and national stability.

"This puts the onus on policymakers to evaluate in-depth how something as critical as the European migrant crisis could possibly affect a far-off country like the Philippines," Llanto added.

Llanto also noted that Briguglio's presentation about the EU migrant crisis is in line with PIDS' agenda of enriching the national discourse on building resilience against an array of risks.

Briguglio pointed out three dimensions of the migrant crisis. According to Briguglio, the EU migration crisis has three dimensions and these are associated with border control, granting of asylum, and humanitarian considerations.

"Geography has dictated the disproportionate distribution of responsibility among European countries in dealing with the crisis. Europe's legislative guide to dealing with migrants is embodied in the Dublin Regulation, which places responsibility of temporarily keeping and legitimizing asylum seekers on the first country migrants arrive in. Because most migrants originate from the Maghreb, South Asia, and the Middle East, nations like Greece, Italy, Malta, and Eastern European countries like Hungary bear majority of that responsibility," he explained.

In addition, Briguglio pointed out a conundrum in identifying legitimate asylum seekers from migrants seeking economic opportunity.

"Part of what makes the European migrant crisis unprecedented is the sheer volume of people. Leaving it up to the border countries is unsustainable. Currently, only a very small proportion of migrants have actually been resettled outside of the entry-point countries," he said.

Briguglio also criticized the EU's lack of an effective strategy in dealing with the crisis, calling it a "crisis of solidarity".

"The humanitarian aspect of the crisis is forgotten in the scramble to flee from the responsibility of responding to and helping manage the influx of people. Instead of highlighting the issue from a humanitarian angle, whereby the fact that the vast majority of migrants are normal people running away from war, the crisis has given rightist groups an opportunity to wage an anti-immigrant political agenda across European states. The issue has become extremely polarized on the issue of religion and cultural compatibility, with little room for finding both pragmatic and humane solutions," he explained.

Overall, the refugee crisis, according to Briguglio, is a multifaceted issue. He added that peace in the Middle East is the most ideal solution to stop the influx of migrants to the EU. However, he admitted that it is also the hardest and farthest from being accomplished in the near future.

According to Briguglio, the EU strategists need to focus on strengthening Europe's capacity to receive asylum seekers and expedite the processing procedure. He suggested that Europe has to create a common European asylum system to harmonize the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees, and more importantly, to share the burden of responsibility equally among EU countries. The researcher also recommended making targeted policies that would integrate migrants into the labor market.

"Employment would reduce cultural tensions and the cost of hosting irregular migrants. Policymakers will have to sort out and reduce skill mismatches, address and minimize language barriers, and protect the migrants from further exploitation," he stated.

Interestingly, during the seminar's open forum, an audience member revealed that Europe could learn a thing or two about managing migrants and refugees from the Philippines.

The Philippines is one of only a handful of signatories to the 1952 Refugee Convention with a clear procedure on managing refugees. A Refugee and Stateless People Protection Unit under the Department of Justice regularly deals with refugees from countries like Syria and Pakistan, more often than the public is aware of. In 2012, the United Nations lauded the Philippines for establishing an emergency transit mechanism to help process refugee application papers and assist irregular migrants. ###

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In response to calls to institutionalize the government's conditional cash transfer program or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), an expert from state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) stressed that the targeting of the 4Ps should first be refined to make it more effective in reducing poverty.

In a briefing on the status of poverty, inequality, employment, and health in the context of social protection programs held at the House of Representatives, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Celia Reyes pointed out that institutionalizing the 4Ps will have massive implications on the national budget. Thus, she asserted that policymakers should first refine the 4Ps by identifying areas in the program that need to be improved.

Reyes noted that programs like the 4Ps have produced encouraging results and was even ranked by the World Bank as one of the "best-targeted social safety net programs in the world" in its 2015 report.

"The proportion of children attending school has been increasing over time. This is something that is actually consistent," acknowledged Reyes. However, she noted that the potential impact of such programs can be stunted when certain conditionalities are not fully considered.

"Initially, while the 4Ps was designed to assist children ages 6-14 years old, it has been noted that the school participation rate for that age group is already very high. It is really in the older group where you have the problem," explained Reyes.

She also noted a huge disparity between the proportions of children aged 16-18 years old who are attending school in the poorest decile compared to children of the same age group in the richest decile.

"As we would expect, the average years of schooling would increase with income. So, that's eleven years average schooling for those belonging in the richest decile, and only about five years for those belonging in the poorest decile. If you wanted to provide some assistance, you would really need to target the poorest," suggested Reyes.

Aside from targeting the poorest, Reyes suggested shifting resources.

"If you want to finetune the program, we would need to shift the assistance from elementary to high school, and probably revisit the amount of grants that we give to high school," recommended Reyes.

In relation to the need to help young and poor Filipinos attend high school, Reyes presented a comparison of average daily wage rates based on the level of education. It is no surprise that high school graduates earn higher income at about PHP 284 a day, higher than those who are not high school graduates at only about PHP 171 per day. Meanwhile, those who are college graduates earn around PHP 623 pesos per day while those who have completed post-graduate studies earn around PHP 1,216 per day.

Reyes clarified she is not recommending to extend the 4Ps to tertiary. However, she advised policymakers to explore ways to link up 4Ps recipients and broaden their opportunity of reaching tertiary level of education. She iterated looking at the possibility of shifting resources from elementary to high school and strengthening support at the high school level as a policy starting point.

Reyes also emphasized that there should be different interventions or programs for chronic poor, or those people living in poverty over extended period of time, and for transient poor, or those who move in and out of poverty.

"Addressing the needs of the chronic poor requires structural and long term solutions like investing in education and human capital strategies. The transient poor, on the other hand, require a different and more specific approach, not to mention the policy input of other government agencies and sectors"like labor, finance, and disaster resilience -- which are just as equally important to combating poverty," Reyes said.

"Studies show that there has been a slight decline in poverty incidence in recent years, but the actual number of poor people has increased due to rapid population growth. Policymakers must tailor solutions to minimize the occurrence of poverty because poor people are not uniform and their needs are not uniform as well," Reyes concluded. ###