Social Climate

What ‘Imperial Manila?’

/ 05:14 AM February 10, 2018

Exponents of federalism are fond of using the term “Imperial Manila,” as though the National Capital Region (NCR) has been exploiting the rest of the country for its own selfish benefit. Then they claim that the current form of government is the basis for such imperialism.


Are there numbers to justify a label of NCR as “imperialist”? This piece will show, using the four quarterly Social Weather Surveys of 2017, that people in NCR are not invariably better-off than people elsewhere in the country, in certain important respects.

The SWS surveys were designed, from the beginning, three decades ago, to provide separate streams of data for four study areas, namely NCR, the Balance of Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.  For 2017, the best-off area (in bold type, below) and the worst-off area depend on the indicator of comparison.


Table 1 shows NCR with the least poverty (average 31 percent) in 2017, followed by Balance Luzon, as has been the case for many years. Poverty is now highest in the Visayas (58 percent), whereas in the past it was often worse in Mindanao.  These are percentages of families; the poverty rating is that of the household head, as survey respondent.

But hunger in general, and severe hunger in particular, is now lowest in the Visayas. The next-lowest hunger area is Mindanao, followed by NCR, and finally by the hungriest area, Balance Luzon (12.8 percent in 2017).

Hunger and poverty are different conditions. At any point in time, in any given area, hunger is always greater among the poor. The hungry proportion, among both poor and nonpoor families, fluctuates very much across both time and area.

In Table 2, the percentages pertain to individual adults of all statuses. Net Gainers are the excess of those whose Quality of Life (QOL) improved in the past year over those whose QOL worsened. Net Optimists are the excess of those who expect their QOL to improve in the next year over those who expect it to worsen.

In 2017, gaining was strongest in Mindanao, followed by NCR, and then Balance Luzon, and finally the Visayas. But optimism was strongest in NCR, followed by Mindanao, then Balance Luzon, and lastly the Visayas.

The Net Satisfied with life are the excess of those Very Satisfied over those either Not Very Satisfied or Not At All Satisfied; this indicator bypasses those Somewhat Satisfied. Similarly, the Net Happy with life are the excess of those Very Happy over those either Not Very Happy or Not At All Happy, with the Somewhat Happy bypassed.

The best-off area in terms of life-satisfaction in 2017 was the Visayas, followed by Mindanao; NCR and Balance Luzon were tied for third.  But the best-off in terms of happiness in 2017 was Mindanao, followed by the Visayas; third was Balance Luzon, and last was NCR.


For the six indicators in the tables, the best-off area is NCR in two cases, the Visayas in two cases, and Mindanao in two cases. Balance Luzon is never the best-off.

Where is “Imperial Manila?”  Might there be an “Imperial Mindanao” instead?

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TAGS: federalism, Imperial Manila, NCR, SWS
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