Cordillera needs funds most, but gets lowest budget
BAGUIO CITY—The Cordillera Administrative Region is getting the smallest share in the proposed 2014 national budget, despite evidence that it needs more support given its poor 2012 economic performance, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said here on Thursday.
Liza Fangsilat, DBM Cordillera director, said the upland region was receiving P31.7 billion, the lowest allocation in the proposed budget measure, which, she noted, “is not enough.”
The Cordillera economy posted only a 1-percent growth in last year’s gross regional domestic product (GRDP). The tailings dam accident that caused Philex Mining Corp. to stop operations in 2012 may have helped pull the economy down, according to an official of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
The GRDP measures the value of goods and services in a region.
According to DBM data, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon, which make up Southern Luzon) would be receiving the highest share amounting to P130.2 billion, followed by Metro Manila with P128.4 billion and Central Luzon with P88.9 billion.
Speaking on the sidelines of a DBM forum, Fangsilat said the Cordillera was still hampered by a small population, a primary factor for allocating government resources.
However, she said, the region had the highest per capita income in the country, which means that the government spends more for every Cordilleran compared to people in other regions.
During a July 26 news conference, Milagros Rimando,
Neda Cordillera director, described the Cordillera economy as “unsustainable,” having posted a sustained drop from a
6.3-percent GRDP in 2010 to 1.3 percent in 2011.
Rimando said the Department of Public Works and Highways provided stimulus growth by building new roads and raising construction spending by as much as P700 million, which was reflected in 2012 as an
11.1-percent growth for the construction sector. In 2011, the construction sector posted a negative 14 percent.
But this was not enough to rouse the economy, Rimando said.
Mining activity dropped last year, posting a negative
54.8-percent growth, she said. In 2011, the mining performance was equally poor, posting a negative 9.3 percent.
“Through the years, our mineral production has been declining, and in 2012, Philex [operations] were suspended,” Rimando said.
Philex has been the region’s only high-performing mine, but the Mines and Geosciences Bureau stopped its operations in Benguet province when a breach in its tailings storage facility accidentally discharged up to 20 million tons of mine wastes into a creek in Itogon town.
After a cleanup and after paying more than P1 billion in fine, Philex was allowed to continue its operations this year.
“Our agriculture is very small in terms of its contribution to the economy,” Rimando said, posting only a 10-percent growth, but half of the region’s work force are employed in the farm sector.
In Dagupan City, Juan Ngalob, Neda Ilocos director, said the Ilocos region’s economic performance had been sluggish through the years, posting a
5.3-percent growth in 2012, compared to its performance in the 1990s.
Ilocos region businessmen urged the government to speed up the development of special economic zones in the Ilocos provinces.
Nelson Yuchongtian, vice chair of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, submitted a manifesto to the Neda expressing their desire for “the development of special economic zones in Region 1, particularly for airports and seaports.”
“I have been upset because the government has not been supporting the development of ports,” he told a news briefing on Aug. 9.
“Singapore and Congo have small areas but they progressed because of their ports. We need [to improve] ports in the region like Poro Point in La Union. There is a need to expand the ports in Luzon for faster delivery of goods,” Yuchongtian said.
He said the Ilocos region was strategically located and could provide better access for industries. The region operates an economic zone in Laoag City, Vigan City, the Poro Point facility in San Fernando City, La Union, and the Sual Industrial Estate Development Zone in Pangasinan.
Yuchongtian also urged the government to improve airports located in Laoag, Poro Point and in the Pangasinan towns of Lingayen and Rosales. Reports from Yolanda Sotelo, Kimberlie Ngabit-Quitasol and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon
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