LEGAZPI CITY --- Fueled by robust economic growth, improved social services and growing labor force these indicators have substantially brought down the region’s poverty level, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in Bicol said on Monday.
Agnes Espinas Tolentino, NEDA regional director, quoting a Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA) report, said investments in the services and industry sectors were the economic drivers that propelled Bicol’s economic growth.
Tolentino said the region’s economy grew by 8.9 percent in 2018 propelling it to be the fastest growth area surpassing all other regions nationwide.
The PSA report said the high growth rate was driven by Services with 5 percentage points -- the largest contributor. It is followed by Industry with 3.2 percentage points while Agriculture shared only 0.7 percentage points.
For this economic growth, the region recorded lower poverty incidence at 21 percent compared to the same period last year at 27.6 percent.
Other factors that could have significantly brought down poverty incidence in the region are the implementation of newly enacted laws such as the TRAIN Law, Universal Health Care Act, Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act, and the increased base pay of military and uniformed personnel, Tolentino said.
Tolentino, however, said that “although, there was a reduction in poverty incidence, the planned economic targets have not yet been achieved.”
Constraints cited in achieving the planned targets are security issues and vulnerability to disasters.
In 2018, the Philippine Army recorded 86 towns and 274 villages in Bicol that are under security threats.
Bicol is considered a disaster-prone area because about 20 typhoons pass over the region every year.
Although rehabilitation and recovery measures were quickly put in place, the devastations inflicted have largely affected the lives of the people, she said.
Tolentino said there were also several poverty alleviation policies and laws that were passed last year whose impact has yet to be felt by families below the poverty line.
She said Bicol having recovered from the effects of past calamities last year, the agriculture sector growth has moved forward with the implementation of major agri-support facilities.
Tolentino said the Department of Agriculture (DA) spent P735M for the construction of 97 farm-to market-road projects with an estimated length of 73.50 kilometers that were expected to benefit 2,930 farmers.
Growth in the industry sector was supported by construction (21.7 percent); mining and quarrying (18 percent) and moderate growth in manufacturing by 1.2 percentage points.
The robust growth in construction was supported by the Build, Build, Build Program with an increase in government construction at 70 percent in 2018.
Government spending on infrastructure and other economic and social services include the widening of roads and bridges along the Maharlika Highway, Catanduanes Circumferential road, Albay-Camarines Sur diversion road, and Bacon-Manito road including four other road projects.
Among the continuing big-ticket infrastructure projects are the Bicol International Airport Project, Naga Airport project, Camarines Sur expressway, Pasacao-Balatan road, and the Catanduanes Circumferential road.
Construction by the private sector increased by 36.9 percent with the completion of the various mall and department stores like SM City in Legazpi city, Vista Mall in Naga City, Xentro Mall in Polangui, SM City in Daet, Camarines Norte, the Oriental Hotel Albay and Morison Hotel in Legazpi City.
Tolentino said infrastructure projects have accelerated government spending and other economic and social services.
Growth in mining and quarrying was backed by the production of gold which increased by 7 percent by Filminera Resources Corporation and Philippine Gold Processing and Refining Corporation in Aroroy, Masbate.
Value of non-metallic minerals such as perlite and limestone increased by 12.2 percent.
Poor in Bicol drops in over a decade
While Bicol is seen as a new growth area, the region continues to endeavor to be delisted as among the poorest regions in the country. With a population of 5.7 million, 39 percent or 2.2 million (four out of ten people) of which are considered poor.
The number of poor families in Bicol has gradually declined by 7.9 percent from 2006 to 2015, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported.
Cynthia Perdiz, PSA regional director in a phone interview said that from 35.4 percent of poor families in 2006 it gradually dropped to 27.5 percent in 2015.
Quoting PSA data, Perdiz said Bicol’s present population of 5.7 million is composed of 1.2 million households.
“The magnitude of poor families study in 2015 has shown slight improvement as compared to the previous studies in 2006, 2009, 2012.” Perdiz said.
She said that a family in Bicol should earn at least P21,500 per month as a poverty threshold, but “below this income bracket, that family would belong to the category of poor. ”
Perdiz said as far as provincial data is concerned, the group of provinces in the country with the highest poverty incidence among families in both 2012 and 2015 include: Bukidnon, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar, Sarangani, Sulo and Zamboanga del Norte.
Meanwhile, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Listahanan 2 study in 2017 said 3 out of 10 households in Bicol are poor.
In the Bicol region, a total of 1,082,852 households were assessed, 34.4 percent or 372,451 of which were found to be poor, the study indicated.
Camarines Sur has the highest number of identified poor households with 127,873 or 34.3 percent, followed by Masbate with 78,475 or 21.1 percent while Catanduanes being the smallest province has the least the number of poor households with 15,274 or 4.1 percent.
Albay with 69,955 or 18 percent, Sorsogon – 48,664 or 13 percent and Camarines Norte with 32,210 or 8 percent.