Poverty rate decline in Cordillera traced to CCT program, farmers’ shift to lucrative jobs
BAGUIO CITY—Some 136,000 Cordillera residents are no longer classified as poor as of 2018, the latest government poverty statistics showed.
At a forum here on Thursday, government officials said farmers in the region earned much more when they shifted to the service and tourism sector, which may help explain the downtrend in poverty figure.
Marciana Tawagen, senior economist of the National Economic and Development Authority in the Cordillera, said exempting low income earners from paying income taxes after the enactment of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act could be another reason the poverty rate dropped to 12.2 percent in 2018 from 19.7 percent in 2015.
Tawagen said these factors had reduced the region’s poor population to 216,200 people. Cordillera covers the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, Abra and Apayao, and Baguio City.
To cross the poverty threshold or the minimum income divide between poor and nonpoor, five members of a family must each earn an annual income of P24,874.
The reduced number of poor Cordillerans meant the region’s 2022 target of lifting 67,000 of them from poverty had already been achieved, Tawagen said.
Although Cordillera is one of the least populated regions, its improving poverty threshold could help the country achieve the 2030 sustainable development goal of cutting poverty by half, she said.
Mountain Province, where popular tourism destination Sagada is located, has the highest average poverty threshold for a family of five in a month with P11,552, according to Villafe Alibuyig, Cordillera director of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).
Apayao registered the lower threshold with P9,639.
A declining trend in unemployment and underemployment rates suggests that unproductive farmers have shifted to more lucrative jobs, or have moved to towns and provinces which offer quality employment, Tawagen said.
The Cordillera economy grew by 7.3 percent in 2018, but agriculture floundered with a 5.3-percent decline in performance as measured by that year’s gross regional domestic product, or the value of goods and services produced in the region.
The PSA said 40 percent of the region’s work force were in the food growing sector.
Tawagen said augmentation schemes such as the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program might have had an impact on the poverty reduction.
Apart from requiring children of the program beneficiaries to complete their elementary and high school education, their parents undergo livelihood training sessions, she said. —VINCENT CABREZA