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Development Challenges in Bicol - NEDA V

The National Economic Development Authority is at the helm of the country’s development planning. As the country’s premier socio-economic planning agency, the NEDA drafts the national development plan. Its Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2023-2028, released in December 2022, serves as the current country’s medium-term blueprint to reinvigorate job creation and accelerate poverty reduction by steering the economy to its target high-growth path.

I sit on the Regional Plan Advocacy Committee (RPAC), an ad-hoc special committee of the Bicol Regional Development Council with 25 members from other regional government agencies and two other private sectoral organizations committed to helping promote and raise awareness among the people from various sectors and organizations, the Bicol Regional Development Plan (BRDP) 2023-2028. Representing the Tabang Bikol Movement, which comprises multi-sectoral volunteers working for and with poor communities and other sectoral concerns, we define development as people-centered, democratic, and inclusive. In the survey conducted in December 2023 by the Social Weather Station, nearly half of Filipino families, or 13 million households, considered themselves poor, hardly any change before. This dismal situation has persisted for centuries, and for almost 50 years, the country’s development plans have not moved forward to poverty alleviation and national industrialization. The task is, therefore, daunting.

NEDA is the lead government agency responsible for assessing social, economic, physical, and environmental trends and drafting development plans according to the priority objectives of the sitting president. Eight objectives top the current head of state’s socio-economic agenda, namely the protection of purchasing power, reduce vulnerabilities, ensuring sound macroeconomic fundamentals and government processes, creating jobs, creating quality jobs, creating green jobs, providing a level playing field, and upholding public order, safety, peace, and security. The government calls its development process a whole-of-government and whole-of-society approach toward an inclusive, prosperous, and resilient society.

BRDP Framework

The BRDP echoes the PDP’s call for a profound economic and social transformation in the Philippines’ social, environmental, financial, and institutional sectors. Bicol is disaster-prone and vulnerable to various hazards, which brought PHP49.3 billion in losses for 2014-2022. This is in addition to the vast socio-economic losses due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and the added cost of rebuilding better lives and infrastructures. A steep decline in agricultural and fisheries production from 2010-2010 has threatened food security in the affected areas.

Let us take a quick look at the goals of the BRDP 2023-2028: to address old problems of land use conflicts, landlessness, deforestation, encroachment of settlements, and protected areas; and increase people’s access to essential services, education, and technology to enhance working capacity considering that in the whole country, Bicol ranks second among the regions in the Philippines with the most significant number of poor people. It also aims to prioritize the highest development for inaccessible and underdeveloped communities to address poverty and inequality; to institutionalize measures to reduce the communities’ vulnerabilities and exposure to hazards with disaster-resilient infrastructure and settlement areas to meet the demand of the increasing population, which is expected to double in 60 years (2080). It hopes to ensure that people adapt to the continuing threat of pests and diseases to humans and agriculture to climate change to be self-sustainable and for economic sufficiency in food, water, energy, and other commodities. “Livable communities” shall be created.

Tourism is a priority plan, so strengthening infrastructure linkages and increasing redundancy of transportation routes, communication, and other infrastructure facilities are necessary to help reduce the vulnerability of people and properties during disasters. Connectivity between the region’s urban centers, agriculture and industrial zones, tourism hubs, and other growth areas shall be enhanced through essential infrastructure linking markets, providing employment opportunities, and improving access to social services. There will be Integrated digital and physical infrastructure systems. There are eight operating economic zones, mostly information technology parks and centers- three in Albay, four in Camarines Sur, and one in Camarines Norte.

The region comprises seven cities (one independent and six components), 107 municipalities, and 3,471 barangays. It is subdivided into 16 congressional districts: five in Camarines Sur, three in Albay, three in Masbate, two in Camarines Norte, two in Sorsogon, and the lone district of Catanduanes. Each province has adapted the same framework and mechanisms for development in its areas as this enhances the connection between regional and local planning and “promotes greater local ownership of the RDPs, and guidance to the LGUs in formulating their local development strategies and programs.”

In the meantime, the P5.768 trillion General Appropriations Act for 2024 is the highest in the country’s history. As government development plans proceed, the Philippines’ corruption index ranks lower. On the 2023 Democracy Index by London-based think tank The Economist Intelligence Unit, the Philippines showed a consistent drop—from worse to worse—in corruption incidence since 2012 in most aspects of governance.


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