DSWD survey notes dramatic drop in number of poor families in Bicol

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 27 (PNA) — The Bicol Region has pulled off a dramatic drop in its number of poor families.

The recent regional survey conducted by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) under its National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), also called Listahanan, noticed this achievement that some local leaders and observers attribute to both natural and man-made influences.

The Listahanan survey, done from May to September this year, reached a total of 1,056,722 households across all the region’s six provinces — covering seven cities, 107 municipalities and 3,471 barangays.

Following assessments through the Proxy Means Test (PMT), only about 38.9 percent or 410,186 of them were identified as poor.

The PMT is a statistical model that estimates the income of households using the proxy variables indicated in the Family Assessment Form accomplished by enumerators while conducting house-to-house interviews.

This year’s Listahanan is the second round after the first made by the DSWD in 2009 that recorded a depressing figure 59.5 percent or 461,242 families of the 775,014 households assessed were poor.

Mayor Noel Rosal of this premier Bicol city recognized as the region’s tourism capital and fast emerging as the Southern Luzon’s business center, said that first of all, this improvement is a work of nature which spared them from strong typhoons for the past nine years now.

It could be one of the good impacts of climate change insofar as the region is concerned because all super typhoons that entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility since the past nine years have spared the area, once known as the path of tropical storms.

The last devastating scenario was during typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” which successively battered the region in the late part of 2006 killing hundreds of people, leaving homeless thousands of families, toppling power supply facilities, infrastructures and other major installations and destroying billions of pesos worth of farm crops and livestock.

What is also impressive, according to regional director Agnes Espinas of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), is the peculiarity of Bicolanos in refusing to go down on their knees amid those disasters and rising fast silently sans much howl and protest.

The favorable weather, this outstanding trait of Bicolanos bolstered by the change in national administration in 2010 which introduced inclusive economic growth, the putting into practice of countryside development, restoration of peace in rural barangays, the various poverty alleviation interventions and the upsurge in private investments are among the important factors affecting this poverty rate fall, she said.

Today, good life does not only continue to bloom in Bicol after those past decades of disasters, government neglect, fears from the raging insurgency war and extreme poverty that confined it in the cellar among regions but the region has been getting livelier and continues to nourish its booming economy and explore more opportunities to rise high, Espinas noted.

This city, she said, is among the top economic development gainers, making it to the latest listing of Bicol cities and municipalities with lower incidence of poverty owing to the tremendous performance of its tourism industry.

The listing, which was recently released by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on the project on the generation of the 2012 Municipal and City Level Poverty Estimates, says that poverty incidence in 88 of the 114 municipalities and the seven cities of the region declined between 2009 and 2012.

Legazpi is mentioned in the NSCB list as the only city in Bicol to be among the top 10 municipalities and cities with the largest reduction in poverty incidence.

These improvements lifted Bicol from the rank of 4th to 7th among the country s poorest regions with Masbate earlier ranked as among the 10 poorest provinces graduating from the circle in 2012 owing to the reduction of political violence and tourism industry advancement.

These statistics are reinforced by another listing recently made by the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) which identified the Top 10 provinces in the Philippines that have the highest poverty incidence among families from 2006 to 2012 not one from Bicol included.

The 10 are Lanao del Sur, followed by Eastern Samar, Apayao, Maguindanao, Zamboanga del Sur, Sarangani, North Cotabato, Negros Oriental, Northern Samar and Western Samar.

Indeed, the biggest contributor to Bicol’s economic growth is the tourism industry which last year generated nearly 3.3 million arrivals for a gross income receipts of around Php2 billion.

These benefited 556 hotels with around 10,000-room occupancy and generated about four million local jobs regionwide, said Department of Tourism (DOT) Regional Director Maria Ong-Ravanilla who added that these figures are seen to improve this year with this city as the highest performer, posting nearly one million arrivals.

DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia said the lists of poor households identified in the survey are now posted in barangays for public scrutiny as part of the validation process that entertains appeals and or complaints before the list is officially finalized.

The validation provides an opportunity for the review of the preliminary list of poor where wrong entries can be corrected such as spelling of names, birthday, address and others as well as the inclusion of those households not visited during the regular enumeration.

Garcia said DSWD encourages the public to follow these simple steps in the Listahanan validation process: carefully review the preliminary list of poor posted by the DSWD in barangays; come to the area supervisor if there are questions or complaints to the list; and file a complaint without forgetting to write complete information on a complaint form.

The Listahanan is an information management system that aims to establish a database of poor households which identifies who and where they are.

This second round assessment, Garcia said, applies new features in the conduct of identifying the poor to minimize if not totally prevent errors in the inclusion and exclusion process.

The new features include the application in the PMT of two sub-models– one for the National Capital Region and one for all other regions that would make community variables as determinants of poverty status.

A second stage screener to plug possible inclusion errors or non-poor being included in the list of poor has also been applied and with these enhancements and the combined inclusion and exclusion error rates declined from 22-35 percent in the old model to 6-19 percent in the new model, Garcia said.

Through these, a new batch of poor families has been identified and become candidate for government and non-government social protection programs as the official list is shared with data users to serve as their guide in selecting beneficiaries.

This also enables the DSWD to track changes or developments in the lives of poor households who were identified in the previous assessment as the finalization of the new list involves the forming of a Local Validation Committee that acts on complaints and appeals, he added. (PNA)