July 24, 2024

With the Philippines being among the first to witness the effect of the virus, the impact of Covid-19 on poverty has been significant. After imposing lockdown measures, the government has maintained control with an iron hand as numbers have continued to rise.
The resulting lockdowns due to the virus have created a significant downturn in the job market, thus exacerbating the pandemic’s impact on poverty in the country.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the country’s unemployment rate hovered around five percent, but it has now worsened due to lockdown measures.
According to the Philippines Statistics Authority, unemployment rose to 17.6 percent in April 2020 and it is a figure that could rise as lockdown measures continue, leading to increased levels of poverty and hunger.
Each year, all sectors of society around the world observe the World Day for Overcoming Poverty. To highlight this event in the country, we join our brothers and sisters around the globe on the observance of the National Week for Overcoming Extreme Poverty (NWOEP), which runs from Oct. 17 to 23, with the theme “Building forward together: Ending persistent poverty, respecting all people and our planet.”
The NWOEP aims to gather and unify support from all sectors of society in the fight against poverty and to pay homage to the struggles of the less privileged.
The National Anti-Poverty Commission leads the weeklong activities held in various places, from government offices, schools, public areas, town halls, and cultural centers. At the heart of villages, ordinary people come together to listen to the experiences of those living in poverty. Each place commemorates the day differently. It may involve debates, art exhibits, workshops, stories for children, or musical performances.
The observance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty can be traced back in Oct. 17, 1987 when over a hundred thousand people from all walks of life gathered at the Plaza of Human Rights and Liberties (that time the place is named Trocadero Plaza) in Paris, France to honor the victims of extreme poverty, hunger, violence, and ignorance. The site is also the place where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed in 1948.
The people gathered upon the appeal of Fr. Joseph Wresinski, a French Catholic priest and founder of All Together in Dignity (ATD) Fourth World Movement. They proclaimed that poverty is a violation of human rights and affirmed the need to come together to ensure that these rights are respected. These convictions were inscribed in a commemorative stone unveiled on that day.
Since then, people of all backgrounds, beliefs, and social origins have gathered every year on Oct. 17 to renew their commitment and show their solidarity with the poor. Replicas of the commemorative stone have been unveiled around the world and serve as a convergence point to celebrate the day.
In appreciation of the non-government organizations’ initiative, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 47/196 declaring Oct. 17 as the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on Dec. 22,1992 and invited all States to devote the day in presenting and promoting, as appropriate in the national context, concrete activities with regard to the eradication of poverty and destitution.
In response, former President Fidel V. Ramos signed Proclamation 269 in Oct. 4, 1993 declaring Oct. 17 of every year as the National Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty in observance of the ATD Fourth World-led “World Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty.” On Oct. 17 of the same year, Ramos unveiled at Rizal Park a replica of the commemorative stone in honor of the victims of extreme poverty. It has since become the site of the annual commemoration organized by the NAPC in partnership with the ATD Fourth World Philippines, National Parks Development Council, and city government of Manila.
Replicas of the commemorative stone have been established in the cities of Davao in 1994 and Ozamiz in 2001, and in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur (2007); Barotac Viejo, Iloilo (2008), and Buenavista, Quezon (2008).
On Oct. 18, 2004, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Proclamation 717 declaring Oct. 17 to 23 as NWOEP. The proclamation designated NAPC to lead, coordinate, monitor, and evaluate the nationwide yearly observance of NWOEP in coordination with key partners and stakeholders in poverty reduction.
To make the public aware of the week-long commemoration and instill in them the virtues and principles espoused by the observance, which is the refusal of extreme poverty and the respect of human rights, dignity, and freedom, the government encourages the public to support the international campaign to end extreme poverty; recognize and appreciate the various initiatives of poor communities and local government units in uplifting the lives of poor Filipinos; and invite more stakeholders to join in the fight against poverty and build a critical mass to ensure a greater chance of effectively eradicating poverty at the soonest time.
All of us have to fight our own battles, wherever we may be, but these battles must have global repercussions if this world is to move forward through change. Wealth comes from listening to those who walk the paths of poverty.