Poverty worsened in Southwestern Mindanao in Arroyo’s twilight years

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/17 April) — The poverty situation in Southwestern Mindanao worsened from 2006 to 2009, the regional office of the National Statistical Coordination Board said in a report released during the weekend.

Herlita Caraan, NSCB regional chief, attributed the worsening poverty incidence to the rising prices of basic consumer commodities during the latter half of the nine-year administration of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“While there were increases in income, it was eroded by high inflation rates, thus a worsening poverty condition,” she said. Southwestern Mindanao or Region 12 comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

Poverty incidence in the region, or the proportion of families with per capita income falling below the poverty line, was estimated at 28.1% in 2009 or 1.0 percentage point higher than the 27.1% poverty incidence in 2006, data showed. It added that the per capita poverty threshold in the region, or the amount needed by a person to satisfy his food and other basic needs annually, was estimated at P15,762 in 2009 or about P1,314 monthly.

This would mean that in 2009, a family of five in the region needed a monthly income of P6,570 or P78,840 annually to provide for the family’s basic food and non-food needs to stay out of poverty, Caraan said.

Dictated by price movements, the 2009 poverty threshold was 25.8% higher than the P12,530 poverty threshold estimated in 2006, the NCSB regional report said.

The inflation rate in the region from 2006 to 2009 was estimated at 20.1% and inflation on food items further stood at 25.8%, it noted.

Sarangani province posted the highest poverty incidence in 2009 at 40.7%, followed by Sultan Kudarat with 35.2%, North Cotabato with 25.6% and South Cotabato with 23.6%. Sultan Kudarat, on the other hand, managed to reduce its poverty incidence from 38.7% in 2006 to 35.2% in 2009 and improved the living  conditions of about 5,471 families, the report said.

Among the provinces, poverty threshold was highest in South Cotabato at P16,413 while lowest in Sarangani at P14,987. In terms of magnitude, the number of poor families in the region in 2009 was estimated at 224,882 families. This represents an increase of about 10.8% or 21,882 families from the 203,000 poor families listed in 2006.

South Cotabato registered the most number of poor families with a total of 78,304 poor families or about 34.8% of the region’s poor. About 17,268 families were added to the ranks of its poor since 2006. North Cotabato, on the other hand, had an estimated 55,908 poor families while Sultan Kudarat had 45,987 poor families. Sarangani Province, despite posting the highest poverty incidence among the provinces, only had 39,182 poor families.

The increase in the mean per capita income of the bottom 30% of families was eroded by the high inflation rates, the NSCB report said, adding that increases in income ranged from 20% to 25.3% while the inflation rates ranged from 20.1% to 25.8%. The mean per capita incomes of the bottom 30% of families were also below the P15,762 annual per capita poverty threshold, it said. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)