The Foundation for a Sustainable Society, Inc. (FSSI) joined civil society groups in Forward Fairer: Overcoming Inequality in the Philippines, a forum hosted by Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP).
FSSI Executive Director, Sixto Donato C. Macasaet took part as panelist in the discussion, alongside Jollibee Group Foundation Executive Director Gisela Tiongson, Samahan ng Nagkakaisang Pamilya ng Pantawid former President Jeana Catacio, and Angat Pinas Inc., Executive Director Raffy Magno.
The forum started with a comprehensive presentation from Dr. Nadia Belhaj Hassine Belghith, Senior Economist of World Bank and one of the authors of the World Bank study on Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in the Philippines.
As presented by Dr. Belghith, the World Bank study provides an overview of the country’s progress in poverty and inequality reduction over the past 30 years, and informs investment programs and policy can be improved to reduce poverty and inequality in the country,
Dr. Belgith identified five main causes of inequalities in the Philippines. According to her, one of the most critical issues is unequal opportunities. These inequalities start very early in life, and then they perpetuate over the life cycle. “They start even before the birth of the child through inequalities in access to antenatal and postnatal care, which vary depending on the geographic location of the household, the education level of the mother and the income of the family,” Dr. Belgith noted.
Secondly, there are inequalities during childhood, especially with regard to malnutrition indicators and vaccination rates appropriate to age. “Malnutrition indicators are overall very high in the Philippines, but they are four times higher among households in the poorest groups compared to those in the richest groups.”
A third factor is the disparity between geographic regions in terms of access to basic services, infrastructure, facilities, health care, and education. Fourth is inequality in the gaps in education, and particularly the gaps in tertiary education. Lastly, are the gender gaps in the labor market.
As underscored by Mr. Macasaet, FSSI strives to build more partnerships and become more active in collaborating with other CSOs, government, and the private sector in efforts to address poverty and inequality in the country.
“For many years, it has been clear to me and many of my colleagues that our societies and civil society organizations cannot do it alone. The problem of poverty and inequality is so big that we have to work together.
Businesses have a big role in ensuring markets at fair prices and providing technology to strengthen social enterprises. Government has a big role in ensuring enabling regulations and laws that are suited to the needs of small enterprises. Lastly, I think the government has to do something with climate change and in providing affordable and comprehensive insurance in agriculture,” he said.