Having been into development assistance work in the Philippines for almost four decades, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) sought for strengthening the focus on poor provinces which can be found mostly in Mindanao.

In a recently produced ADB magazine entitled Making a Difference in Mindanao, ADB country specialist Joel Mangahas noted that "poverty and inequality have remained a huge challenge for the Philippines particularly in many parts of Mindanao."

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The National Statistical Coordination Boardÿ (NSCB) data showed that six of the 10 poorest provinces are in Mindanao and these are Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, Maguindanao, Surigao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and Misamis Occidental. Other poor provinces are Apayao, Northern Samar, Masbate and Abra.

Citing an ADB analysis entitled "Diagnosing the Philippine Economy:ÿ Toward Inclusive Growth," Mangahas attributed widespread poverty and inequality to "lack and slow growth of productive employment opportunities."

ADB has noted that the state of poverty in the country is rooted in "inequitable access to employment opportunities especially education, health, infrastructure and productive assets such as credit and land; and in inadequate social protection and social safety nets.

Internet research explains social safety nets or socio-economic safety nets as transfer programs seeking to prevent the poor from getting more deprived through providing cash transfers, supplemental feeding, in-kind transfer such as school supplies and uniforms and subsidies for electricity and public transport.

ADB in an internet reference explains social protection to "consist of policies and programs designed to reduce poverty and vulnerability by promoting employment and protection of workers, diminishing people's exposure to risk, and enhancing their capacity to protect themselves against hazards and loss of income."

Despite the deep-seated poverty in some parts of the country especially in Mindanao, ADB sees mechanisms to solve it through promoting "sustained and inclusive growth."

But this can only be attained by addressing "tight fiscal situation" that has existed due to weak revenue generation, by solving "inadequate infrastructure particularly transport and power," and by strengthening "investor confidence."

ADB emphasized inclusive growth which the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) describes as both an outcome and a process.

Inclusive growth ensures that everyone can participate in the economic growth process, both in terms of decision-making in the organization as well as in participating in the growth itself through productive employment. It also makes sure that everyone shares equitably the benefits of growth.

Mangahas revealed that ADB had so far completed 36 projects exclusive for Mindanao and had done a total of 30 national in scope projects with investments in Mindanao.