Duterte signs Magna Carta of the Poor

By Genalyn Kabiling 

The government is mandated to implement programs to ensure the rights of the Filipino poor to food, work, education, housing, and health care will be met under a new law signed by President Duterte.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (KIWI BULACLAC/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN) President Rodrigo Roa Duterte

Republic Act No. 11291 or the "Magna Carta of the Poor" seeks to provide the poor with full access to government services as well as establish a national poverty reduction plan to improve their welfare. The new law was signed by the President last April 12 and released to the public Monday.

"It is the declared policy of the State to uplift the standard of living and quality of the poor and provide them with sustained opportunities for growth and development," the law read.

"It shall adopt an area-based, sectoral and focused intervention to poverty alleviation where every poor Filipino must be empowered to meet the minimum basic needs through the partnership of the government and the basic sectors," it added.

Under the law, the government will establish a "system of progressive realization" or implementation to provide opportunities to realize the rights of the poor to "adequate food," "decent work,” “relevant and quality education," "adequate housing," and "highest attainable standard of health.”

The law defines the poor as "individuals or families whose income falls below the poverty threshold as defined by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and/or who cannot afford in a sustained manner to provide their minimum basic needs of food, health, education, housing, and other essential amenities of life."

In the law, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Agriculture (DA) and other concerned agencies will take action to mitigate hunger, implement supplementary feeding programs in day care centers and schools, and ensure stable food supply, among others.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and concerned agencies have been directed to ensure the poor will have access to information about job openings, ensure compliance of public works contractors to fill 30 percent of skilled labor requirements by qualified workers from the poor sector; promote livelihood among the poor, ensure compliance with labor standards, address job and skills mismatch, and enhance human capital through education and training.

The Department of Education (DepEd), the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) must also keep a system of free public education in kindergarten, elementary and high school levels; make higher education accessible to all poor persons and families; and ensure access to quality technical-vocation education and training.

The Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) must also prioritize the implementation of socialized housing program, build housings for families living in danger areas of those affected by calamities; create an enabling environment to assist the poor gain access to security of tenure with least financial burden; provided simple requirements and procedures and expeditious processing and approval for socialized housing proposals.

The Department of Health (DOH) must also ensure equitable access to a system of good quality health care and protection acceptable to the poor, provide comprehensive health services and programs, reduce financial burden of health care through socialized health insurance.

The law also directed the government agencies to formulate a "National Poverty Reduction Plan” to set the thresholds to be achieved for each of the rights of the poor. "This plan shall consider development plans of provinces, cities and municipalities. NAPC, with the assistance of NEDA, shall be tasked to compile and harmonize these plans,” it said.

The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) must also ensure basic sectors and local government units are engaged in the formulation and implementation of the poverty alleviation plan.

The law also encouraged the private sector to help finance and implement the poverty alleviation programs.

Any donation, contribution and grant for national anti-poverty plan will be exempt from donor's tax. The implementers of the socialized housing resettlement program will also enjoy incentives stated in the Urban Development and Housing Act of 1992.

The NAPC has been assigned to oversee and monitor compliance of the law. Concerned agencies will be required to submit a report to the NPAC within six months of the effectivity of the law and very six months thereafter.

The law takes effect 15 days after publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper.