Category 1

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014


NO, CATEGORY 1 is not an incoming typhoon. This is the categorization made by the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) of provinces like Negros Occidental with the highest magnitude of poor households.

According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB), the Magnitude of Poor Families/Individuals is defined as the number of families/individuals whose annual per capita income fall below the annual per capita poverty threshold.

The NSCB report points out that in 2012, a Filipino family of five needed P5,513 to meet basic food needs every month and P7,890 to stay above the poverty threshold (basic food and non-food needs) every month.

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The revised PDP recognizes the persistent concerns that poor Filipinos are not enjoying the benefits of the country’s recent dramatic economic growth. In other words, the economic growth benefited the rich, but not the poor.

“It does not mean that we can do nothing but wait until the benefits of economic expansion ‘trickle down’ to the poor,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in an introduction to the revised plan.
Despite an economic growth of more than seven percent in recent years—among the highest rates in Asia—unemployment has remained high while the rate of poverty has barely fallen.

In the case of Negros Occidental, Frank Carbon, president of the Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry, blamed the province’s poverty situation on its dependency on the sugar monocrop industry for the Category 1 classification.

I totally agree with Mr. Carbon’s assessment that half of the population in Negros Occidental are still dependent on the sugar industry and that these population have only about six to seven earning months.

Tiempo muerto (dead season) is the scourge of Negros Occidental. “For about five months, this population are not earning because they are so much dependent on the sugar industry,” said Carbon.

For Category 1 provinces, poverty reduction efforts will focus on improving infrastructure to attract more job-generating investments in agro-industry, food manufacturing, information technology-business process management, logistics and tourism.

Rafael “Lito” Coscolluela, the current provincial consultant on investment promotions, trade and export development, and inter-agency coordination, posits that the future belongs not to sugar to lift the province out of Category 1.

Lito emphasizes the need to develop the green economy, and the existing and prospective demand for specific products and commodities, final and intermediate, income levels and structures, biofuels and renewable energy that include solar and wind, organics, bamboo development, agro-industrial manufacturing, handicrafts, tourism.

This is in sync with national economic reforms that seek to strengthen the trade connections between urban centers that saw phenomenal growth and the impoverished rural areas where most Filipinos live.

In human rights terms, the reason why we are in Category 1 (and 2 and 3 in other provinces for that matter) is that development are heavily skewed in favor of the city centers. The State has discriminated against the rural communities.

The Magic Year now is no longer 2015 when the province will be forced to slug it out with cheap imported sugar. For the Negrense poor, can the province make the transition to a green economy and make grand exit out of Category 1 in 2016?

***

(bqsanc@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 23, 2014.

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