Briefing Paper: Social Protection in the Philippines

This paper was presented at the United Nations Development Programme
inter-regional workshop titled "Social Protection in an Insecure Era: A
South-South Exchange on Alternative Policy Responses to Globalization,"
Santiago de Chile, 14-16 May 2002.

This paper identifies the most critical problems and issues regarding
Philippine social protection. It begins with a definition of social
protection, its objectives and a list of Philippine social protection
programs and their features. It also presents a background of the
underlying development problems for a better appreciation of the prime
issues relating to social protection in the Philippines before
proceeding to a discussion of the main social protection issues.

Social protection has secured an important place in the Philippine
development plan, especially in light of the devastating social and
economic impact of a succession of crises that pounded the country in
the last two decades. Nevertheless, the gaps and problems remain big.

This paper has a modest objective: Pinpoint the most critical problems
and issues (at least from the author's point of view) regarding
Philippine social protection. As a starting point, we need a good
handle to discuss social protection. One can be overwhelmed by the
comprehensiveness of the subject matter. For instance, one has to
grapple with the wide scope of social protection programs and the
numerous sets of policy responses that must meet different, if not
competing, social and economic objectives.

As a point of reference, then, it is worthwhile to return to the basic
definition of social protection. The definition provided by Isabel
Ortiz (2001), the chair of the Asian Development Bank's
Interdepartmental Working Group on Social Protection, is useful for
this discussion. That is: "the set of policies designed to promote
efficient and labor markets, protect individuals from the risks
inherent in earning a living either from small-scale agriculture or the
labor market, and provide a floor of support to individuals when
market-based approaches for supporting themselves fail."

In the same vein, we can cluster social protection objectives to include the following:

  1. Reduction of the poor people's vulnerability to basic consumption and services;
  2. Enhancement of funds, including private or personal savings and
    fiscal resources, that can be immediately and flexibly tapped at any
    time to finance consumption; and
  3. Strengthening of safety nets as well as the judicious design of
    poverty-sensitive and equity-oriented measures to respond to macro
    shocks (man-made or natural calamities).

The strategies and programs towards accomplishing the above objectives
are broad and  diversified. The Philippines, compared to other
Asian countries, has a wide scope of programs for social protection
(see Ortiz 2001).

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