Wanted: A detailed data of city poverty incidence

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Rolando T. Dy

M. A. P. Insights

Poverty incidence monitoring is an important metric of local government performance.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has done well in disaggregating poverty incidence by province since 2006. Based on the data, one can track which provinces performed well.

However, there is room for improvement. There is a critical need for more “granularity” or level of detail. Highly urbanized cities with their low poverty incidences mask the performance of the provinces.

PSA is now conducting the 2018 Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES), which is done every three years. FIES is the basis for computing poverty incidence.

In 2015, heavily urbanized cities’ poverty incidences were lumped with provinces. Only two cities had separate poverty incidence: Cotabato City at 31.6%, and Isabela City in Basilan, 25.1%.

In 2015, the poverty incidence of NCR was 3.9% with urban population share of 28%. Thus, the rest of urban areas (72%) was estimated to have urban poverty incidence of 14.5% based on national urban poverty incidence of 11.5%.

The heavily urbanized cities include: Baguio, Puerto Princesa, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, and Davao.

Take Benguet province with a poverty incidence of 3.5%. Baguio is a highly urbanized city and comprised 44% of the total area population in 2015. If Baguio had 5% poverty incidence, then Benguet province would have poverty incidence of only 1.9%. Is that possible?

The whole of Cebu had a poverty incidence of 21.4%. Assuming Cebu City had a poverty incidence of 10%, the province would have a poverty incidence of 24.3%. The provincial poverty rate is more than double the city’s poverty rate.

Misamis Oriental had a poverty incidence of 19.3%. Assuming a 10% poverty incidence for Cagayan de Oro, the poverty incidence of the province will be 26.%. This is more than twice the city poverty incidence.

Zamboanga del Sur had a poverty incidence of 24.8%. Zamboanga City had a population nearly the size of the province. Assuming that the city, physically separated by 270 kilometers by road, had a poverty incidence of 15%, then the provincial poverty incidence would be 33%. This is more than two times the city poverty incidence.

South Cotabato had a poverty incidence of 24.6%. Assuming a 10% poverty incidence for General Santos, then the poverty incidence of the province would be 33.9%, triple the city’s poverty incidence.

Davao del Sur which included Davao City had poverty incidence of 15.6%. The city with more than 2.5 times the population of Davao del Sur is a service and processing center. The latter is heavily agricultural with coconut dominating.

Assuming a poverty incidence of 10% for the city, then the poverty incidence of the Davao del Sur province would be 30%. This again is three times the city poverty incidence. That puts the province poverty incidence way above the national level of 21.6%.

Governance is area-specific. Provinces are ruled by governors while cities are led by mayors. Lumping city and province poverty incidences distort the poverty picture and can lead to wrong conclusions and attributions of governance.

Thus, for better poverty targeting and monitoring, PSA needs to separate poverty incidences for heavily urbanized cities.

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP.


Rolando T. Dy is the Vice Chair of the M.A.P. AgriBusiness and Countryside Development Committee, and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific.