by Manny Piñol
The country’s 10 Poorest Provinces identified by the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) will be the focus of the Food Production and Poverty Alleviation strategy of incoming President Rody Duterte which would include livelihood programs for the poorest of the poor.
When incoming Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, a close friend and grade school classmate of the President-elect, declared last Monday that the new administration will dramatically reduce poverty, I immediately designed a comprehensive program which would look at the weaknesses of an area and its potentials in food production.
The strategy is called Special Area for Agricultural Development or SAAD, which means “Promise” in Cebuano, was successfully implemented in many depressed areas of North Cotabato when I was Governor from 1998 to 2007.
This was one of the programs which reduced North Cotabato’s Poverty Incidence Per Family (PIPF) from 52.6% in 1998 to only 29% in 2007, pushing up the province to the Top 30 Best Performing Provinces before I left office.
Sadly, today North Cotabato has rejoined the list of the 10 Poorest Provinces in the country with a PIPF of 44.8%.
It is ranked No. 7 among the poorest with Lanao del Sur No. 1 with 67.3% PIPF, Eastern Samar No. 2 with 55.4%, Apayao No. 3 with 54.7%, Maguindanao No. 4 with 54.5%, Zamboanga del Norte No. 5 with 48%; Saranggani No. 6 with 46%; North Cotabato No. 7 with 44.8%; Negros Oriental No. 8 with 43.9%, and Northern and Western Samar tied for No. 9 and 10 with identical 43.5%.
While this could be considered as a contentious political issue because the incumbent administrators of the province dealt me my two electoral losses, I will try to objectively discuss why and how North Cotabato fell back to the ignominious club of the country’s poorest provinces in future posts.
So, how will SAAD support President Duterte’s target to reduce poverty while at the same time making food Available and Affordable for the Filipinos?
I have already talked to the Governors of two of the 10 Poorest Provinces – Maguindanao’s Esmael Mangudadatu and Saranggani’s Steve Solon – and both agreed to work closely with the DA in addressing Poverty by improving Food Productivity.
In the two provinces and in the eight others included in the group of the Poorest Provinces, a SAAD Project Management Team will be established to be composed both of technical people from the DA and the province.
Together, they will identify the problems confronting the area and find solutions to address these.
When these are identified, the DA and other agencies, who may be involved, will come in and provide funding support for the programs.
The focus would be on livelihood programs which are proven to be sure-fire formula in addressing poverty.
Will the strategy work?
Well, it all depends on how mature the political leaders of these areas are.
The reality is that most of these areas are actually under leaders who belong to political parties which did not support President Duterte.
Will these leaders be politically mature enough to understand that for their province to rise up and out of poverty is for them to set aside political differences and cooperate with this administration?
I hope they do because if they will not cooperate, President Duterte will always find a way to reach out to the poorest Filipinos to lift them out of the sad state they are in right now.
President Duterte has promises to keep, including Available and Affordable Food for the Filipinos, and local officials have two choices – join and support the effort or stay by the sidelines.
There will be no political niceties or accommodation.
Anybody who stands in the way will be answerable to this President whose loyalty is to his country and the Filipino people.
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