THE government’s Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) has been effective in reducing poverty incidence in the country, according to the World Bank (WB).

Ruslan Yemtsov, lead economist in social protection and labor at the WB, on Wednesday said the Pantawid Pamilya is one of the best-targeted social safety net programs in the world, benefiting the country’s poor and most vulnerable families.

Yemtsov, who led the preparation of the report “The State of Social Safety Nets 2015” and World Bank Lead Technical Expert on Social Safety Nets, said that 82 percent of the benefits of the country’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) Program goes to the bottom 40 percent of the Philippine population comprising the country’s poor households, as well as those that are highly vulnerable to poverty.

“Poverty in the Philippines is a dynamic phenomenon and many households move in and out of poverty during the year due to factors like calamities, droughts or the advent of the lean seasons,” he told reporters at a news briefing on Wednesday.

“The poor and vulnerable in the Philippines benefit from what is today one of the largest and best-targeted social safety net programs in the world,” Yemtsov said.

Social safety net programs include cash and in-kind transfers that target poor and vulnerable households, with the goal of protecting families from impact of economic shocks, natural disasters and other crises; ensuring that children grow up healthy, well-fed, and can stay in school and learn; empowering women and girls; and creating jobs.

According to “The State of Social Safety Nets 2015,” more than 1.9 billion people in 136 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs.

The report’s other findings include CCT programs accounting for over 50 percent of the beneficiaries in social safety net programs, and are now present in 64 countries, a dramatic increase from two countries in 1997; having major positive spillover effects on the local economy of target communities; generating income ranging from $1.34 to $2.52 for local communities from every dollar transferred to beneficiaries (“multiplier effects”); boosting school enrolment and attendance; increasing live births in safer facilities; improving pre-natal and post-natal care; promoting regular growth monitoring of children during critically important early ages; and enhancing food security.

In the Philippines, almost 4.5 million households are enroled in the Pantawid Pamilya from only 360,000 households in 2008.

“The CCT Program grants, on average, only account for about 11 percent of the income of the poorest recipient households,” Motoo Konishi, World Bank country director, said.

“Yet, for poor and vulnerable households, the grants are very important. Two rounds of rigorous impact evaluation show that they use the money to buy food, school uniforms and school supplies for their children.”

According to Konishi, impact evaluation studies also showed that CCT is delivering on its objectives: keeping poor children in school and healthy.

Enrolment among poor elementary school children increased by 5 percentage points, while secondary education enrolment increased by 7 percentage points.

The program increased pre-natal and post-natal care by 10 percentage points and increased the delivery of babies in health facilities by skilled health professionals by 20 percentage points.

Children benefited by receiving higher intake of vitamin A and iron supplementation by around 12 percentage points and by increased weight monitoring visits to health facilities by 18 percentage points.

According to Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Soliman, the government is updating the Listahanan, the program’s poverty targeting database, to ensure that the CCT Program continues to respond to the needs of the country’s poor and vulnerable.

“As we speak, DSWD field workers are completing the data collection to update the database,” Soliman said.

“As of August, we have collected data from almost 11 million households. The target is 15.3 million, or 75 percent of all households in the Philippines. This updated database of poor and vulnerable households across the country will be the basis to select the succeeding sets of CCT beneficiaries.”

“What is good about this program is that many sectors are watching: media, local government, civil society groups, local leaders and policy makers. Their continuing feedback helps ensure improvements in implementation of the program,” Soliman added.

She said the National Household Targeting System will present results of the second survey, which covered 15 million families, by the first week of October.

“In that, there will be three categories: non-poor, poor and near poor,” Soliman added. “These are 10 percent of the families who are just above the poverty line.”

“The poverty threshold, for example, is P10,000 for a family of five, you are poor. If you go beyond P10,000, you are not poor. Right now, the non-poor do not get any support by way of conditional cash transfer or social safety net efforts, except those who are formally employed. As we all know, those below the poverty line are the informal settlers,” the DSWD chief said.

“It’s not the amount of CCT that we are looking at, but we are looking at other programs that will address near poor because we believe the near poor should be strengthened and kept above the poverty line,” she noted.

Globally, around 1.9 billion in 136 countries benefit from social safety net programs, which are proven effective in helping reduce the poverty gap by 15 percent, the World Bank said.

It added that one-third of the world’s poor are covered by the safety net program.