THE NATIONAL Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) government met this week to discuss strategies towards bringing down the poverty rate in the region, which stood at 63% as of the first semester 2018. “Among the 40 poorest provinces in the country, the five provinces of BARMM compose the top five,” NAPC Secretary Noel K. Felongco said at a press conference in Cotabato City on July 30. Citing a data from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Mr. Felongco said Sulu had the highest poverty rate at 74.3%, followed by Lanao del Sur at 73.7%, and Basilan, Maguindanao and Tawi-Tawi with 72.1%, 55.1%, and 23.4%, respectively. BARMM Assistant Executive Secretary Abdullah Cosain said the new regional government “is very much aware of the poverty incidence” and they are optimistic that the provisions of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), particularly on their expanded resource management authority, would benefit the poor.
“According to the socio-demographics, 64% of our population is still in the sector of agriculture and fisheries, which means that majority of our three million population depend on agriculture and fisheries,” Mr. Cosain said, “This is the area where we believe that the intervention from the Bangsamoro government would be very critical. If we can improve farming and fisheries then it is one way of hopefully reducing poverty incidence here.” He also said that the BARMM government aims to tap the region’s other abundant natural resources.
“As we can see, one of the reasons why economic activity remains vibrant in Tawi-Tawi is because of the mining activity there. Looking at the other natural resources of the BARMM provinces, we do believe that once these are tapped, magkakaroon ito ng magandang effects sa mga tao (It will have a significant impact on the people).” He also assured that the “Bangsamoro government will proceed with the cautious path since we want the utilization of these (natural resources) to ultimately benefit the people.” The NAPC, meanwhile, reintroduced its Sambayanihan Serbisyong Sambayanan (SSS) program, the five-year development plan intended to reduce poverty nationwide, which stood at 21.6% in the first half of 2018. — Tajallih S. Basman