by ERNESTO T. SOLIDUM
Aklan’s Lowest Poverty Incidence
Hundreds of people lined up the streets of Kalibo to witness and cheer participants in the civic and military parade during the 57th founding anniversary of Aklan province. RA 1414 signed by Pres. Ramon Magsaysay on April 25, 1956 formally separated Aklan from its mother province, Capiz. The birth heralded lifelong obsession of her top leaders in the House of Representatives to establish political, social and economic independence. Festive occasion is fused with thanksgiving mass, agro-industrial trade fair, jobs fair, commemorative program and awarding of plaques of appreciation to outstanding Aklanons.
Rank and file employees from national and local offices of the 17 towns of Aklan in their official uniform and banners braved the one and half hour trek amidst the hot summer sun from Pastrana park to the ABL Sports complex. Conspicuous are the drum and zylophone corps and comely band majorettes of different schools in Aklan. Punctuating the parade are lavishly decorated floats from Banga, Lezo, Kalibo, Nabas and Libacao. Individual themes emphasized exceptional product designs of indigenous materials and agricultural crops with value added potential.
Aklanons got talent is aptly presented in a 2-hour spectacle of songs and dances repertoire featuring performers from different public and private schools. Well appreciated and applauded are chorale renditions, folk dance and rondalla under chief organizer, Dr. Jessie M. Gomez, Aklan’s Schools Division Superintendent.
The commemorative program started late at 11:00 o’clock AM. The speakers adjusted their messages to suit the occasion. Vice Gov. Gabrielle Calizo Quimpo said that based on National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) 1st quarter of 2012 report shows that Aklan has record poverty incidence of 21.0 percent from 38.4 percent in 2009. This means one (1) Aklanon in every five (5) is poor. She attributed phenomenal decline to strengthened agri-tourism program, infra development backed up with billion pesos annual budget for the last 3 years.
Gov. Carlito S. Marquez thanked the Father of Aklan, the late Godofredo P. Ramos for his indomitable courage, zeal and vision that Aklanons are now prosperous, productive and free to develop its own distinct culture and tradition. In 2004 when he first took office, the provincial budget was only P300 million. Presently it is P1.2 billion. Thanks to the support of Aklanons and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. A choiced legacy to his provincemates is renovated Provincial Capitol building with its impressive façade and 3 storey edifice. A work of art, it captures functional and modernistic architectural design reminiscent of Greek marble columns.
The guest speaker, Hon. Risa Hontiveros Baraquel is represented by her nephew Luis Hontiveros. Mr. Paulo Benigno Aquino was invited guest. His wife Timmy Aquino spoke in his behalf.
Undoubtedly, NSCB has a lot to explain regarding Aklan’s highest poverty incidence reduction of 45.31 percent in the whole country. Data of 38.4 percent recorded in 2009 against 21.0 percent in 2012 is very significant given the relatively short time span of three (3) years.
The reference national figure during the first semester of 2012 is 27.9 percent although this is not yet conclusive (final report is expected in later part of 2012). NSCB Sec. Gen. Jose Ramon G. Albert mentioned that percentage of Filipinos living below the poverty line has almost remained unchanged in the last six years in the whole country.
It could not be denied that improvement in the status of families living below poverty threshold is traced to heavy inflow of Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT). Almost all of Aklan’s towns are recipients. Nevertheless the P1,400 per month per family subsidy could hardly satisfy financial needs of P8,785 in 2012.
The obvious justification is the P20 billion per year earnings from Aklan tourism. However, this money does not circulate in Aklan but elsewhere. Even then, four fifths of investors in Boracay are foreigners or outsiders who repatriate their income outside Aklan and spend it elsewhere. Unfortunately benefits for Aklanons could be very limited.
Granting that there is valid evidence that Aklan has indeed reduced its cycle of despondency due to effective governance, then the Conditional Cash Transfer program of DSWD can be lifted. The implementation of CCT is three (3) years now. This is part of the exit strategy of DSWD under Sec. Dinky Soliman in order to give preference to inept provinces like Apayao, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Eastern Samar, Ifugao, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and Masbate.
NSCB guideline defines poverty as when a family of five (5) members is barely able to put food on the table or when earnings is below P5,458 per month. The same family must earn at least P7,821 if it wants to satisfy other non-food needs like clothing. Aklan’s poverty threshold for 2006 is P6,680; P8,440 in 2009; and P8,785 in 2012.
Evidently, the 6.6 percent GDP growth in 2012 has not filtered through the grassroots. The poorest segment of the population accounts for 6 percent of total national income while the upper 20 percent accounts for nearly 50 percent.
To strengthen agriculture sector will positively provide the answer as 67.7 percent of our family income is spent on food. In contrast, our Asian neighbors like Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and Vietnam allocate less than 50 percent because food self sufficiency is a family priority and way of life.
Hence, the 21 percent poverty incident in Aklan requires honest validation. /MP