by ODON S. BANDIOLA
The renovated Provincial Capitol Building, a symbol of provincial progress.
If the gauge is the least number of families living below the poverty threshold level, then Aklan can be considered the richest province in Western Visayas.
This is the implication of the latest report of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) on the state of poverty in the country which shows that only 21 percent of the total number of families in the Province of Aklan lives below the poverty level during the first semester of 2012.
This is a drastic reduction in the poverty incidence in Aklan which in 2009 hit a high 38.4 percent among families and 32.3 percent in 2006.
The 2012 figure of poverty incidence in Aklan is much lower than the national average of 22.3 percent among families in the entire country living below the poverty line.
The 2012 NSCB figure on the state of poverty certainly gladdened the unified political leadership in Aklan lead by Governor Carlito S. Marquez and Vice Governor Gabrielle V. Calizo-Quimpo whose centerpiece program of governance is poverty alleviation through tourism and agriculture development.
In the past, when the NSCB released the 2009 figure of the state of poverty, Marquez was irked by the high figure of 38.4 percent poverty incidence in Aklan.
Marquez popularized his battle cry in governance “Owa it ginagaid sa kapobrehan” (No one is tied to poverty).
Antique has the highest poverty incidence in Western Visayas pegged at 32.1 percent, followed by Guimaras and Negros Occidental with 26.2 percent each, Capiz with 25.4 percent and Iloilo with 21.9 percent, all during the first semester of 2012.
Aklan’s 21 percent figure on poverty incidence is much lower than the regional average of 24.7 percent and the national average of 22.3 percent.
The reduction of poverty incidence in Aklan during the last three years would only mean that development programs of national and local governments had certainly caused trickle-down effects.
Aklan, through Boracay, registered tourist arrivals of more than a million last year translated into more than P20 billion in tourism receipts.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development has covered all the towns of Aklan with its Pantawid Pampamilyang Pilipino Program infusing several millions of pesos annually into the provincial economy.
Infrastructure development in the province had been massive while several hundreds of millions of investments had been pouring into the province because of tourism.
The province of Aklan has P1.2 billion budget in 2013. It has already qualified as a first class LGU even before the official reclassification by the Bureau of Local Government Finance. /MP