KIDAPAWAN CITY -- A government official said despite the big bulk of funds that come into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm), Muslims in the region remained poor.

Maguindanao acting Governor Bai Nariman Ambolodto said that from 2001 up to 2005 alone, the Armm regional government alone has received P26 billion funds from the National Government.

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The local government units in the region have received almost P31 billion.

"To sum it up, data showed that the Philippine government has transferred to our people some P76 billion from 2001 to 2005," Ambolodto told a group of Ulama during the 3rd National Ulama Summit held Sunday at Waterfront Hotel in Davao City.

In 2009, the National Government has set P1 billion for the region.

"This year, we might find that the Philippine government will double the amount of money they have transferred to the Armm, our provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays," she said.

The international donor organizations, she added, had also not neglected the Armm people.

The region is beneficiary to several foreign-funding projects, including those programs funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAid), United Nations network of humanitarian and development missions, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (Jica), Cida, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), World Bank, European Union, and many others.

The Armm population was registered at 2.5 million in 2000.

Ambolodto said that when the regional domestic gross product (GRDP) of the Armm has increased by 43 percent, 61.8 percent of the people in the region are poor.

In Maguindanao alone, seven out of 10 people are poor.

"This is despite the fact that Maguindanao hosts the Armm regional government. It has an airport directly flying to Manila; the largest port in Southern Philippines; long stretch of coast, with very large marsh and plains, mountains and rivers.

But data showed that in 2006, a third of the Maguindanao population cannot even afford himself the minimum food requirements, which is pegged at P28.58 per day," she said.

But the acting Maguindanao governor is confident the economy of the province will improve.

"Our Gross Regional Domestic Product is reported to have increased by 43 percent. Our agriculture has increased by 57 percent. Our industry sector has expanded by 48 percent and our service sector by 27 percent. By all indicators, the Armm is getting better. Our economy is getting better," she added. (MCM)