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What can be done to alleviate, if not entirely eradicate, poverty?

The first priority should be to give the people good-paying jobs so that they can enjoy a decent standard of living. Because of lack of employment in the country, close to 10 percent of the population have left, or are leaving the country, to take jobs abroad. Those who cannot afford to pay for transportation and other fees to get jobs overseas have no choice but to stay behind.  Many of the poorest live on the sidewalks, under bridges and on caritons (pushcarts), scrounging for their next meal from trash cans and for items they can sell from garbage dumps.

An honest-to-goodness agrarian reform program has to be undertaken to improve the lot of farmers who constitute nearly half of the nation’s population. A prime cause of rural poverty is that people do not have farm lands. But giving them land is not enough; they should also be given loans and access to modern agricultural technology.

Good education and adequate health care are needed to give the poor an opportunity to improve their lot. In addition, the poor should be given safe drinking water, adequate nutrition, housing and sanitation. Special attention has to be focused on the most vulnerable groups in any society: children, women and the elderly.

The government has to take more aggressive measures in solving the problems of land reclamation, erosion control, reforestation and water management through the building of dams and reservoirs. Something also has to be done to mitigate the effects of typhoons and floods that every year kill hundreds of people and destroy billions of pesos worth of private property and public works. In many areas in the country, after a very strong typhoon, it is back to zero as crops and infrastructure are destroyed, and thousands of people are displaced.

More roads, bridges, sea and airports as well as railway lines have to be built to improve the mobility of people and to reduce the cost of transporting produce and other goods from one part of the country to another, thus stimulating trade and internal tourism.

Tourism is a potentially rich source of employment and incomes. The Philippines has a lot of things to offer tourists: beautiful tourist spots, white sand beaches and a hospitable, English-speaking people, among other things. But a strategic plan has to be adopted to increase tourist arrivals to 6 million in six years.

All the people—and especially the poor—should be afforded the basic human right to shelter. This means construction of low-cost housing subsidized by the state.

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