30 poorest provinces to get more funds–Aquino | Inquirer News

30 poorest provinces to get more funds–Aquino

/ 03:41 AM February 13, 2014

Pedetrians walk past houses in a shantytown in Manila on July 5, 2013. Despite robust economic growth over the past few years, poverty incidence in 2012 stood at 25.2 percent of the population, slightly lower than the 26.3 percent in 2009 but higher than the 24.9 in 2003. A rare full Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014, which lasted for almost eight hours, tackled the problem of poverty. AFP PHOTO/Jay DIRECTO

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino has created a club of 30 poorest provinces that will receive increased funding and national government support between now and the end of his term in 2016.

The President’s decision to employ a “geographical” or surgical approach to defeating poverty was made at a rare full Cabinet meeting in Malacañang on Tuesday that lasted for almost eight hours.


At the meeting that mainly tackled the “action plan for poverty reduction,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan candidly admitted to the Chief Executive and his Cabinet that the administration had a dismal performance in arresting poverty and creating jobs.

The 30 “priority provinces” will be categorized into three: Category 1 aims to create more economic opportunities; Category 2 aims to enhance mobility of labor and goods; and Category 3 aims to increase resilience since they are local government units most vulnerable to disasters.


Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma announced this new categorization or prioritization of provinces at a briefing on Wednesday.

The Aquino administration is rushing to meet its target of halving poverty incidence by 2015, which means that the government will have to further cut poverty incidence by as much as 8.6 percentage points in a year’s time.

Despite robust economic growth over the past few years, poverty incidence in 2012 stood at 25.2 percent of the population, slightly lower than the 26.3 percent in 2009 but higher than the 24.9 in 2003.

The President directed the Cabinet to be “proactive in delivering front-line services that will assist Filipinos in provinces where there is a high incidence of poverty,” Coloma said.

“Intensify programs on job creation and social protection in the most needy and vulnerable provinces,” the President was quoted by Coloma as saying.

The main agenda for the Cabinet meeting presided over by the President were the “action plans on jobs creation, social protection and poverty reduction presented by the departments comprising the Cabinet’s human-development and poverty-reduction cluster,” said Coloma.

Lagging in ‘social outcomes’


At the start of the meeting, Balisacan presented a midterm assessment of the government’s performance vis–à–vis the targets and objectives of the Philippine Development Plan.

“We are on track with respect to our economic targets, but we lag with respect to our social outcomes,” Balisacan said.

He was referring to the poverty incidence and growing level of joblessness despite a robust economic growth in 2013.

The Social Weather Stations’ (SWS) latest survey found that the unemployment rate rose to 27.5 percent, or an estimated 12.1 million people, as 2.5 million Filipinos joined the ranks of the jobless between September and December last year.

The unemployment rate soared even as the economy surprisingly grew 7.2 percent in 2013, the second-fastest after China’s, showing that economic growth was not inclusive.

The unemployment rate was 6 percentage points higher than the 21.7 percent (some 9.6 million) in the previous quarter, according to the SWS survey.

At the briefing, Coloma tried to explain the glaring disparity between the robust gross domestic product growth and the rising unemployment rate.

He said the GDP growth of 7.2 percent in 2013 was within the 7 to 8 percent annual growth target.

But on unemployment rate, he cited a much lower figure without providing a source for the data—7.1 percent in 2013 compared with the forecast range of 6.8 to 7.2 percent.

Elusive antipoverty target

The official definition of the unemployed covers persons 15 years old and over who are not working, looking for work and available for work.

SWS defines the unemployed as those aged 18 and above who are without a job and looking for one.

In consonance with the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, the target is to decrease poverty incidence by half, from 33.2 percent in 1991 to 16.6 percent of the Philippine population by 2015.

Coloma, however, said the government was far from reaching this target.

“Latest figures (meaning 2012, these are the latest full year figures) show that poverty incidence has been reduced to 25.2 percent,” Coloma said.

Geographical approach

“A key recommendation of the Cabinet cluster on human development and poverty reduction was to implement strategies with spatial and sectoral dimensions to ensure attainment of inclusive growth,” he said.

“Hence, the cluster mapped out specific interventions targeted at addressing the needs of the people in provinces with the (biggest) number of poor households (and these are known as the Category 1 provinces), provinces where the proportion of poor households is high (Category 2), and provinces exposed to multiple hazards (Category 3),” said Coloma.

Action plan

The Cabinet also laid out an agency-by-agency action plan for poverty reduction:

— The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) will focus on increasing the country’s competitiveness in industry sectors with high-employment multipliers, such as shipbuilding, food processing, furniture, chemicals, automative, copper and copper products, electronics and garments.

— The DTI will also pursue initiatives in further improving the ease of doing business and lowering power costs to enhance employment and job creation.

— Continuing support will be given to the information technology-business process management (IT-BPM) sector that has been a consistent generator of new employment opportunities.

— Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said that through convergence programs in 30 priority provinces, (these are the provinces in Categories 1, 2 and 3), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will facilitate job matching and placement of jobseekers.

The DOLE is working closely with the Commission on Higher Education, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), Department of Science and Technology, and Professional Regulation Commission, along with a network of school administrators, guidance counselors and career advocates.

— In line with Asean integration, the DOLE is also promoting the mobility of professionals in up to 46 professions through mutual recognition agreements with other countries.

— Tesda’s work scholarship program aims to develop skill sets and competencies that will match available and potential job opportunities in the following sectors: agro-fishery and agro-industrial; manufacturing, tourism, IT-BPM, infrastructure and housing, and logistics.

Mass housing

On social protection, Vice President Jejomar Binay said the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council was targeting to provide 561,932 families with housing assistance estimated to cost P103.1 billion from 2014 through 2016.

Three priority sectors will be assisted: informal settler families, calamity victims and low-salaried government employees.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said families being supported by the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program would be given sustainable livelihood opportunities, and expanded educational and health grants.


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