National Census kicks off amid concerns

The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), which is coordinating the country's statistics agencies, said the census will help the government identify long term programs for the poor.

Nicasio Angelo Agustin, NEDA Southern Mindanao regional director, announced 25 days of field work for around 2,500 enumerators and supervisors starting today to interview residents about population and other demographic information.

The National Statistics Office said the population count will become basis for internal revenue allotment, creation of new local governments, and the upgrading of LGUs from one income class to another.

Redistricting, including the creation of congressional districts, will also be based on this census.

For business and industry, data from the census will be used in determining sites for establishing businesses, consumer demands for various goods and services; and determining supply for labor for the production of goods and services, the NSO revealed.

Agustin said precision in the survey could help the government allot its resources to areas and population groups that need it most.

He said that for the first time, the census, which was last conducted in 2000, will be run with the help of the Regional Census Coordinating Boards, a scheme used now to cut cost and share the burden of carrying out the surveys withy other government agencies.

He cited 25 agencies involved in this year's survey in contrast to only the National Statistics Office in the past.

He said the government will spend around P1.6 billion to carry out the census. But he said it is not enough, thus the need for convergence of resources from the various agencies.

Agustin cited support and sharing of logistics and other needs to conduct the survey, such as transporting the forms from regional offices to the field.

Raul Gomez , officer-in-charge of the NSO regional office in Southern Mindanao, told reporters that because of the coordination of the various agencies and the regional offices of NSO, the national government’s allotment will already be enough.

On day one of the survey in Davao City, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte and Vice Mayor Sara Z. Duterte became the first and second respondents, respectively.

Patmei B. Ruivivar, the elder Duterte's chief of staff, told reporters Wednesday afternoon this was intended by the NSO as a symbolic start to encourage other Dabawenyos to take part in the census.

As of the 2000 census, the population of the Southeastern Mindanao region was at 3,676,163, making it the most populous among Mindanao's six regions; it ranked seventh nationwide.

Agustin, however, stressed the census will go ahead despite "challenges" in data gathering, especially in far-flung and conflict affected areas.

He said they have tapped the local governments down to the barangay level, and also the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP), to facilitate the entry of the enumerators to the interior villages.

He said they have hired locals as enumerators to help address the security threat posed by armed conflicts.

Agustin said the two-year delay in the census did not affect policy making as development agencies made use of projected figures for the last two years.

He also assured the data revealed by respondents will not be made available to parties that may abuse them in the light of the Human Security Act. He stressed enumerators who violate the rules will be held liable, saying census reports will not have identities, but only statistics.

Sec. 4 of the Commonwealth Act No. 591 provided for the confidentiality of the data gathered by enumerators via house-to-house visits and personal interview with the household head or any responsible household member.

This year’s census is yet the 12th conducted in the country in the 20th century, after the censuses in 1903, 1918, 1939, 1948, 1960, 1970, 1975, 1980, 1990, 1995, and 2000. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)