Rural areas still far from mainstream of development

This refers to the news item titled “Aquino still has high trust, approval rating” (Inquirer, 12/14/12) which reported that, based on the Nov 23-29, 2012 survey conducted by Pulse Asia, President Aquino has maintained big majority approval and trust ratings.

Mr. Aquino’s approval ratings were highest in fighting criminality (67 percent), law enforcement (64 percent) and improving the national peace situation (63 percent). But his lowest rating in poverty reduction (44 percent) is something he has to worry about since certain studies indicate that those living in poverty are more likely to commit crimes than those with better access to wealth. Meaning, there’s a greater possibility of poor people contributing to the disruption of peace and order.

Moreover, it may be noted that while the President also got a high rating (65 percent) in his fight against graft and corruption, which would seem to explain the significant improvement in the corruption perception index of Transparency International (from a score of 24 in 2010 to 26 in 2011 and 34 in 2012), there has been an increase in self-rated poverty from 48 percent in 2010 to 49 in 2011 and 51 in January to August 2012 (Social Weather Stations surveys), which runs parallel to the rise in population poverty incidence—from 24.9 percent in 2003 to  26.4 in 2006 and 26.5 in 2009 (National Statistical Coordination Board data). The most logical reason for this is that Mr. Aquino’s anticorruption drive is geared toward sustaining the past administration’s thrust of making the service sector the prime driver of economic growth. This leaves the rural areas, particularly those in Mindanao, where agriculture is the major source of income, farther away from the mainstream of equitable and sustainable development—the result of which is the lingering poverty in the country.

Relating typhoons to poverty, Prof. Randy David stated in his column “Disasters and the poor” (Inquirer, 12/13/12): “While a typhoon of such great force as ‘Pablo’ is unexpected in Mindanao, the kind of suffering it inflicts on poor people is predictable. The poor have a natural affinity with disasters. So close is this relationship that one can single out vulnerability to disasters as a major defining element of poverty…. But the destruction they cause is a function of a society’s capacity to anticipate, withstand, contain or absorb the force they bring. This capacity is largely defined by a society’s level of development….  The poorer a society is, the greater the loss of lives. The rich lose their property, but the poor lose their lives.”

It must be noted that Luzon, which lies on the main path of typhoons that hit the country, has become more developed and richer and therefore more capable to adapt to climate change than the Visayas and Mindanao.

In the face of the growing threat of climate change, it is high time that the Aquino administration formulated and implemented a strategic plan for the equitable and sustainable development of Mindanao’s agricultural sector.

—EDMUNDO ENDEREZ, eenderez@gmail.com

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Tags: Aquino approval ratings , Benigno Aquino III , letters to the editor , opinion , politics , pulse asia , rural areas

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