Filipino kids wither while super rich get richer under Aquino

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Research group IBON called attention to the worsening state of Filipino children’s health amid reports that the Philippines’ super-rich had continued to grow even richer under the Aquino regime. The stark contrast underscores the exclusiveness of hyped growth, the group said.

The burgeoning wealth of 11 Filipino businessmen, amounting to US $41.5 billion or Php1.95 trillion combined, have qualified them to be among the world’s richest according to a 2016 listing by Forbes Magazine. Henry Sy (with a US $12.9 billion net worth) tops the list of local billionaires joining the global roster, followed by John Gokongwei (US $5 billion), Lucio Tan (US $4 billion), George Ty (US $3.7 billion), David Consunji (US $3 billion), Andrew Tan (US $3 billion), Tony Tan Caktiong (US $3 billion), Enrique Razon, Jr. (US $2.4 billion), Lucio and Susan Co (US $1.6 billion), Robert Coyiuto (US $1.6 billion) and Manuel Villar (US $1.3 billion).

Along with the Aboitiz family (with a net worth of US $3.6 billion in 2015) and Jaime Zobel de Ayala (US $ 3.5 billion), these very names comprised the 13 richest Filipinos in 2015 and are behind the country’s major sources of growth, namely real estate and business process outsourcing, construction, finance, wholesale and retail trade. They are also in key sectors and services such as telecommunications, media, power, water, mining, food and beverages, transportation, health and education. The combined net worth of the country’s 15 richest grew by 8.4% from US $52.35 billion in 2013 to US $56.75 billion in 2015, according to IBON.

The group said that this amassment of wealth and so-called economic growth has not benefited large sections of Philippine society, as many remain jobless, without decent wages and deprived of social services. The growing number of malnourished and stunted Filipino children also indicates such disconnectedness.

The number of underweight Filipino children below five years old increased from 20% of their population in 2013 to 21.5% in 2015; there were 203,244 more underweight toddlers in the said period. The number of stunted Filipino children below five years old likewise increased from 30.3% of their population in 2013 to 33.4% in 2015: 402,134 more Filipino kids aged 1-4 became stunted.

The research group added that  the decrease in the number of fully immunized children also belies the success of government’s social protection program, infant immunization being one of its conditionalities. Of Filipino children aged 12-23 months, those who have been fully immunized decreased from 68.4% in 2013 to 61.9% in 2015 or 629,113 less fully immunized babies.

IBON said that the past and current administrations’ implementation of pro-business, pro-foreign policies under the neoliberal framework has molded an economy that creates wealth for a few at the expense of the people’s socioeconomic rights. The upcoming elections may be an additional window to tackle this reality, and the period towards, during, and beyond the polls a constant opportunity to change it, said the group.

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