Poverty rises in Philippines due to higher food prices, lingering effects of Typhoon Haiyan

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MANILA, Philippines — Poverty worsened in the Philippines in the first half of 2014 due to government restrictions on rice imports and the lingering effects of a killer typhoon, an official said Friday.

Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said poverty incidence among Filipinos rose 1.2 percentage points to 25.8 percent in the first half of last year from the same period in 2013.

Higher food prices, particularly of the staple rice, and effects of Typhoon Haiyan that devastated the central Philippines in 2013, wiped out gains in per capita income, he said.

Baliscan said the increase in poverty could have been avoided by better management of food supplies nationally, particularly rice which accounts for 20 percent of the budget of low income families.

He called for a review of the government's rice self-sufficiency policy which involves restricting rice imports to encourage domestic production.

"Just at the time when the world price of rice was declining, the domestic price of rice was skyrocketing," said Baliscan.

Philippine rice prices rose 11.9 percent in the first half of 2014 as supplies tightened due to lean harvests and lower imports.

Poverty worsened despite 6.1 percent economic growth last year that was the second fastest in Asia after China.

Balisacan said data in 2014 showed the government's income redistribution program and policies to attract investment benefited the poor, but the higher inflation eroded incomes.

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