Saturday, August 19, 2006

News & Current Affairs

Recounting Numbers
The truth behind the 10 poorest provinces
in the Philippines

By Martin Villanueva

MEET Cat, Leonel and Mayzonee—three university students in Metro Manila, with family roots in the nation’s poorest provinces.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on June 14 that Zamboanga del Norte is the poorest province in the Philippines, according to the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB). Slightly less than two out of three families in the province (64.6%) are living in poverty, a 20% increase since the last NSCB survey in 2000.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo calls Mindanao a “super region,” with huge potential for agricultural business and other investments. Still, Zamboanga del Norte is one of seven provinces in Mindanao that are among the 10 poorest. The others are Maguindanao, Surigao del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Misamis Occidental and Lanao del Norte. Completing the list of 10 are Mountain Province, Masbate and Biliran.

The 10 "least poor" provinces, according to the NSCB, are all in Luzon. Chief of the NSCB group, Redencion Ignacio, credited the "spill over" wealth from Metro Manila as the Luzon provinces' advantage over those in the southern islands who struggle with instability due to insurgencies by “Moro and communist guerillas.”

In the Inquirer article, Jesus Dureza, peace adviser for the Arroyo Administration, spoke of the importance of a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for the economic development in Mindanao.

Cat, a freshman at the University of the Philippines-Diliman from Sulu, questioned the ability to maintain the life of a “typical family” amidst the backdrop of uncertainty. “It’s hard to be ‘typical’ when you don’t know where else to go, where to get food and safe drinking water, and a safe place to stay,” she said. She also argued that the release of lists and statistics “sometimes helps add fuel to misconstrued notions about Muslims.” Cat believes “the war” has halted progress in Muslim Mindanao.

Arroyo expressed her optimism with regard to the conflicts in Mindanao in the July 24 State of the Nation Address (SONA). She said, “things are coming together for Mindanao.”

Sulu is one of seven from the list of poorest provinces in the 2000 NSCB study that disappeared from the 2003 list. Arroyo commended the province and its local government for achieving “double-digit declines in poverty.”

However, Cat said that, “If there have been changes, I’m sure not everyone will be able to feel it.”


Get the August 2006 issue of KATIPUNAN to read the rest of this article.

Issue also includes a report on extrajudicial killings and abductions, exclusive interviews with Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan and Lt. Gen. Pedro Cabuay, a look into the Rapu-Rapu mining controversy, and a feature on National Artists Virgilio Almario and Salvador Bernal.


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