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Bicol poverty index drops, living condition ‘improves’

LEGAZPI CITY --- Living condition in the Bicol region has gradually improved as poverty incidence has significantly dropped to 26 percent in 2018 from 39 percent in 2015, a report from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said.

Cynthia Perdiz, PSA regional director, said the significant decrease showed that 678,000 Bicolanos were eased out of poverty in 2018.

In her presentation during the 2018 Full Year Official Poverty Statistics Regional Forum here on Tuesday, Jan. 28, she said poverty incidence among families in Bicol dropped by 10.9 percentage points from 30.8 percentage points in 2015 to 19.9 percentage points in 2018. However, this is still way below the national poverty incidence target of 12.1 percentage points.

The study also showed that of the 5.7 million population in Bicol, 1.6 million or 27 percent are poor. This represents a 7 percent point fall as compared to the 2.3 million poor in the 2015 study.

“Bicol Region, though considered as among the poor regions in the country, has significantly improved its growth status from the third of the poorest regions it rose to the sixth spot surpassing the ARMM, Zamboanga Peninsula, Caraga, Eastern Visayas, and Central Mindanao,” Perdiz said.

Meanwhile, Cynthia Berces, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) assistant regional director, said Bicol’s economy grew the fastest among the 17 regions, fueled by an 8.9 percent growth rate.

She said the growth of the economy was demonstrated by improved agriculture and increased access to economic opportunities for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) that generated multi-millions of pesos in investments and revenues.

Berces said MSMEs were a vital industry that increased the income-earning abilities of the people, hence decreasing the level of social inequalities.

She said despite the occurrence of calamities, weather disturbances, volcanic eruption, rising prices of goods and services and depreciation of the peso, Bicol region managed to grow.

“Another factor that contributed to the fall of the region’s poverty level was the intensified implementation of the government’s social assistance programs that provided income to the poorest sectors covering 375,398 households in Bicol,” she added.

Also, the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education program provided thousands of poor families with free tuition and other school fees in state universities and colleges and state-run technical-vocational institutions, thus, family expenses for education were channeled to other expense items and partly to the savings of the families.

In 2018, the labor force in Bicol reached 4.1 million as a result of the implementation of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” projects, and opening of new malls, hotels, and other commercial establishments.

The national government has spent P41 billion to finance various “Build, Build, Build” project in Bicol. (PNA)

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