March 25th, 2008
Province is top performer in poverty alleviation among 80 LGUs
By JACK C. GADAINGAN, Manila Bulletin
NAVAL, Biliran — The poverty situation may not be too good as shown by records from the National Statistics and Census Board (NSCB), but Biliran province has proven to be the exact opposite by posting the largest decrease in poverty incidence among the country’s 80 provinces.
Based on the 2006 NSCB data, Biliran had gained a 15.1 percentage point decrease of poverty incidence from 46.5 in 2003 down to 31.4 in 2006, even lower than its 2000 figure of 33.3 percent.
The 2006 poverty statistics was officially released to the public last March 5, following a programmed release two years after the reference year.
The report showed that there are 27.6 million poor Filipinos in 2006, up by 3.8 million or 16 percent from its 2003 figure of 23.8 million poor Filipinos.
In contrast, Biliran province bounced back from being number 9th in the top 50 poorest provinces in the country in 2003, up to number 49th in 2006. Before that, Biliran ranked 44th in 2000. It showed that somehow the province suffered a major setback in 2003.
Biliran Gov. Rogelio Espina explained that the sudden surge of poverty incidence in 2003 was caused by “Egay” and “Gilas”, two of the most severe typhoons which hit the country and passed directly over this island province.
The multi-million damage to crops, infrastructure, dwellings, public facilities, disruption in local trade and commerce, and most especially the source of income and livelihood of majority of the residents was reflected in the 2003 poverty survey of NSCB, which resulted to more families under the poverty line.
The province’s sinking to the 9th poorest province in the country in 2003 had prompted the governor to carry out measures to alleviate poverty and spur local economy.
He launched a food self-sufficiency program that diversified into livestock, high-value crops, and fruit trees on top of increasing rice production.
Increasing the availability of food during this period, the Espina also implemented a capitalization program for small businessmen, cooperatives, and even the marginal fishermen, farmers, vendors, and the like which had encouraged growth of the local economy.
Espina’s political rivals had been using the 2003 poverty incidence as an issue against his leadership and administration, claiming that poverty was worsening in Biliran under his watch.
The governor said that as his detractors had been proven wrong, the issue came to rest.
“No matter how well my detractors can twist the facts to satisfy their malicious intent, the NSCB data is there to stay. I felt vindicated,” he added.
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