Grinding poverty: Biggest challenge for the incoming ARMM caretakerab PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 09 September 2011 14:18

By FELIX OSTREA

One of the biggest challenges the incoming appointed caretaker of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to face is how to put in place a combined socio-economic, political and administrative framework to address the grinding poverty gripping most parts of ARMM. 

Appointed caretakers, barring any possible restrain by the High Tribunal, are to assume September 30, the same day the elective tenure of now outgoing regional officials are to end.

The ARMM has perennially been listed as among the country’s poorest, rocked by a secessionist conflict that has been raging for four decades now, locked in bloody clan wars and where most political clans, or the ruling elites rely on firearms, money and use of private armed groups to perpetuate power.

The ARMM still remains the poorest in terms of average family income, said a latest survey released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).
The Philippine News Agency reported recently that the 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), which the NSCB regional office publicized recently, showed that ARMM had the lowest family income at P113,000, not even half of the P356,000 income which families in Metro Manila earned during the period.
In 2006, annual average family income in the ARMM was P89,000, also the lowest among Philippine regions, data showed.

Families in Metro Manila had the highest income among the country’s 17 regions. The top five regions with highest annual family income came from Luzon.
For Central Mindanao (Region 12), Herlita Caraan, regional NSCB chief, said the annual average family income was at P154,000, third among Mindanao’s six regions.
This represents an increase of 35.1 percent over their incomes three years ago. In 2006, the average income of families in Region 12 was P114,000, she added.

Among the Mindanao regions, Southern Mindanao (Region 11) posted the highest average family income at P166,000, followed closely by Northern Mindanao (Region 10) with P165,000, SOCCSKSARGEN, Caraga (Region 13) with P149,000 and Zamboanga Peninsula (Region 9) with P144,000.

The FIES is a nationwide survey conducted by the National Statistics Office every three years. It is the main source of data on family income and expenditures which include levels of consumption by item of expenditure as well as sources of income be it in cash or in kind.

An expert on Mindanao autonomy, Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., said continuing dialogues among sectors in the ARMM and concerned government agencies have to be initiated to determine possible measures than can address poverty in the region.

Mercado, director of the Institute on Autonomy and Governance (IAG), said the government has to focus attention in poverty reduction in far-flung southern communities as one of the causes of nagging security problems hounding the region.

Mercado, whose IAG is involved in governance capability-building projects for local officials, political and religious leaders and all other stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process, said poverty is also best addressed through proper interventions by government offices and non-government organizations, particularly in propagating entrepreneurship among local communities engaged in indigenous crafts and trades.

Mercado said lack of “horizontal infrastructures,” or farm to market roads, ports, bridges, and even transportation, can also be blamed for the economic instability in many parts of ARMM. — Felix Ostrea