Despite growth, Caraga folk among poorestBy Chris V. Panganiban
SAN FRANCISCO, Agusan del Sur—Caraga may have outperformed all regions in the country in terms of economic development in the last three years based on government data, but its people are still among the poorest, according to the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in the region.
A National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) study conducted last year showed that Caraga, once dubbed the poorest in the country, posted a 9.6-percent growth in gross domestic product in 2011 from 7.4 percent in 2010. This was considered the fastest among the 17 regions.
But a recent DSWD survey to profile the number of poor people revealed that 1.2 million of the region’s estimated 2.4 million population were still living under the poverty threshold.
Some residents said they had not felt the impact of the economic development since they are still toiling under impoverished conditions.
Bonnie Arevado, a mother of three children and a beneficiary of the DSWD’s antipoverty thrust Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) in San Francisco town, said her family had not experienced any relief from economic hardships over the past two years.
“We still receive low salaries yet the prices of food and other commodities remain high,” Arevado said, adding that the P1,300 monthly benefits from 4Ps somehow helped buy some vitamins for the children but were not enough to send her eldest son to college.
Rendy Gorgonio, owner of Technopix Agusan print shop, said small entrepreneurs like him never felt the fruits of the economic gains. “Maybe there’s development in the entire region but individually, nothing still happens,” he said.
“What development are you talking about when there have been recurring brownouts? The prices of goods are still high. It could be that only the mining companies have become rich,” said Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines for Southeast Mindanao.
Villasanta believed only the mining industry and the local officials had benefited from the so-called growth while ordinary residents still wallowed in poverty.
The DSWD study showed that 232,301 of the 405,310 households, each with an average size of five, are poor. In the same study, half, or 648,987 of the poor, consists of children.
Dante Rosales, focal person of the National Household Targeting System of the DSWD-Caraga, said his office still had to come up with the results of a special assessment since the figures are still based on their 2009 validation, when the region was still listed as one of the poorest in the country.
“Hopefully, the situation has improved and the poverty incidence has lowered down,” Rosales said.
According to the report, Agusan del Sur has the highest figures, with 65,473 poor households, or 28 percent of the total in the region. This is followed by Surigao del Sur with 59,179, or 25 percent; Agusan del Norte with 49,437, or 21 percent; Surigao del Norte with 45,343, or 19 percent; and Dinagat with the least at 12,869, or 5 percent.
The NSCB report, however, indicated that Caraga’s impressive growth was fueled by the 9.7-percent expansion of its service sector and the rebound of its agriculture, hunting, forestry and fishing sector to a growth of 3.4 percent in 2011 from a decline of 9.6 percent in 2010.