Fisherfolk, farmers remain poorest in PH – PSA

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 26) — Fisherfolk and farmers are still the poorest in the Philippines in 2021, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) show.

According to the preliminary estimates of PSA's 2021 poverty statistics released on Friday, fisherfolk registered the highest poverty incidence rate of 30.6%, significantly higher than the 26.2% in 2018.

Farmers had a poverty incidence rate of 30% in 2021, a slight decrease from the 31.6% in 2018.

Children were also among the poorest with 26.4% poverty incidence rate, followed by residents in rural areas with 25.7%

"These sectors had the highest proportion of individuals belonging to families with income below the official poverty thresholds compared to the other basic sectors," the PSA explained.

These were also the sectors with the highest poverty incidences in 2015 and 2018, the agency noted.

It also said the top three basic sectors that logged the highest number of poor population in 2021 were rural residents (13.67 million), children (10.46 million), and women (9.99 million).

Those with the least number of poor population were persons aged 15 years and above with disability (271,000), fisherfolk (348,000), and senior citizens (1.02 million), the agency added.

The DA has yet to respond to CNN Philippines' request for comment on the report.

In a statement on Sunday, fishers group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) said the 2021 preliminary data "actually validate the chronic poverty in the fishing sector that even the government is unable to hide."

The group reiterated its demands to the government, including stopping reclamation projects and upholding the rights of Filipino fishers in the country's territorial waters.

"This is a challenge to the Marcos administration to concretely address the demand of the fisherfolk. As a concurrent secretary to the Department of Agriculture (DA), Marcos would be responsible if the fishing sector would remain to be in the fringe of society under his leadership," said PAMALAKAYA national president Fernando Hicap.

Meanwhile, farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the actual poverty incidence of agricultural workers "could even be worse."

"Farmers remain among the poorest due to the persistent absence of genuine land reform and rural industrialization," said KMP chairman emeritus Rafael Mariano. "Farmers became even more poorer as a result of importation and liberalization of agriculture."

On March 2, the Department of Budget and Management said the national government allotted ₱1 billion for fuel subsidies for farmers and fisherfolk. It will benefit over 312,000 members of the sectors with ₱3,000 per beneficiary, the agency said.

However, farmers and fisherfolk have also been bearing the brunt of climate change as typhoons and other weather disturbances damage their livelihood. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported over ₱1.1 billion in agricultural damage from the combined effects of bad weather from Jan. 1 to Feb. 5 this year.

RELATED: From the ground: Views of Filipino agricultural workers on climate change

Recently, the oil spill in Mindoro Oriental — which authorities are rushing to contain for almost a month now — is putting 36,000 hectares of marine habitats at risk, impacting waters and fish in affected areas, the University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute said.

RELATED: Gov’t urged to provide subsidy to fisherfolk affected by oil spill