Anti-poverty official says progress in the South impossible with the conflict and lack of infrastructure.
By JESUS F. LLANTO
Mindanao has remained the poorest of the three island groups in the Philippines in nearly a decade, and the government's anti-poverty agency is blaming it on the war and the lack of basic infrastructure in parts of the South.
Officials statistics gathered in 2006 and released this week by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) showed that Mindanao had the highest poverty and subsistence incidence among the major island groups in the country.
Poverty incidence in Mindanao reached 38.8 percent, an increase of 1.1 percent from 2003 figures. Incidence of poverty in Luzon and the Visayas was at 20 percent and 33 percent, respectively.
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The combined poverty incidence rates in all three islands translate to around 4.67 million families that earned less than what they needed for basic food and non-food needs. According to the NSCB, a family of five needed P6,274 monthly to stay out of poverty in 2006.
Mindanao’s poverty incidence rate was 11.9 percentage points higher than the national average of 26.9 percent. The island group also registered the highest poverty incidence in 2000.
Subsistence incidence--the proportion of families and individuals not earning enough to meet basic food needs--was also highest in Mindanao at 19.2 percent. The figure for Luzon and Visayas were 6.4 percent and 14.9 percent, respectively.
Both poverty incidence and subsistence incidence increased from 2003 to 2006 across all major island groups, but Mindanao recorded the highest rates. Experts said the higher poverty incidence was brought on by the rise in food and oil prices, the imposition of additional taxes, and the typhoons that visited the country toward the end of 2006.
Mindanao is home to 18.1 million people, according to the 2000 census. It is composed of five regions, 27 provinces, and 33 cities.
ARMM and Caraga
Official government statistics also showed that regions from Mindanao were also among the country’s poorest. All the five regions from Mindanao—Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, Caraga, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are among the country’s 10 poorest in 2003 and 2006. (Link to the Table of Poverty Incidence by Region for 2000, 2003, and 2006)
In 2006, the two poorest regions were from Mindanao—ARMM and Caraga. Poverty incidence in ARMM and Caraga were at 55.3 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively. The figure in ARMM means that more than half of its families are classified as poor.
National Anti-Poverty Commission assistant secretary Dolores De Quiros-Castillo said that the volatile peace and order situation in Muslim Mindanao and the lack of infrastructure in Caraga are the major causes of high poverty incidence in the regions.
“The conflict [in ARMM] has displaced many families and poverty alleviation is difficult if you have a lot of displaced families,” Castillo said.
ARMM is composed of Cotabato City and five provinces--Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan (excluding Isabela City which is part of Zamboanga Peninsula), and the newly created Shariff Kabunsuan. Most of these provinces are the site of armed conflicts between government forces and separatist groups.
Castillo said that poverty in Caraga is high because of lack of good road network. “It is an agricultural region yet its farm-to-market roads are not in good condition.”
Caraga is composed of five provinces: Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, and the newly created province of Dinagat Island.
8 of 10 Families Hard-up
Mindanao provinces continue to dominate the list of the poorest 10 since 2000.
In 2006, six of the 10 provinces with highest poverty incidence were from Mindanao: Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and Misamis Occidental.
Tawi-Tawi was the poorest province in 2006, with poverty incidence at 78.9 percent--almost eight in every 10 families were considered as poor.
In 2000, six Mindanao provinces were also among the 10 poorest. (Click here to see List of 10 Provinces with High Poverty Incidence)
Mindanao provinces included in the 10 poorest provinces in 2003 were Zamboanga del Norte (1st, 64.6 percent), Maguindanao (2nd, 60.4), Surigao del Norte (4th, 54.5), Agusan del Sur (5th, 52.8), Surigao del Sur (6th, 48.6), Misamis Occidental (7th, 48.1), and Lanao del Norte (10th, 46.5).
In 2000, the six Mindanao provinces included in the list were: Maguindanao (2nd, 59.3), Sulu (3rd, 58.9), Lanao del Sur ( 5th, 54.7), Camiguin (6th, 54.2), Tawi-Tawi (8th, 52.4) and Agusan del Sur (9th, 52.3)
Low Quality of Life
Mindanao provinces also dominated the 2003 list of 10 provinces with the lowest human development index (HDI). The HDI measures life expectancy, education, literacy, per capita income, and standard of living.
In the 2003 HDI Report of the United Nations Development Programme, seven Mindanao provinces got the lowest HDI. These were Sulu (1st), Maguindanao (2nd), Tawi-tawi (3rd), Basilan (4th), Zamboanga del Norte (6th), Saranggani (7th) and Lanao del Sur (10th).
This article is part of Newsbreak's Mindanao Online Reporting project funded by the Australian Embassy.