Palace urged to focus on rural growth

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10:19 PM June 18th, 2013

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June 18th, 2013 10:19 PM

Solving Mindanao’s power crisis and pursuing projects to bolster the local tourism sector should be the Aquino administration’s top priorities if it hopes to achieve “inclusive” economic growth in the Philippine countryside.

In a report released this week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the government should fast-track projects that would protect communities that rely on agriculture from extreme weather conditions to reduce joblessness in areas where unemployment numbers have been above the national average.

“Going forward, a major challenge that could hamper regional development, particularly in Mindanao, is the lack of adequate supply of electricity that threatens various economic activities,” the BSP said in its 2012 Report on Regional Economic Developments released late Monday.

The BSP said the power crisis was particularly pronounced in the so-called Soccsksargen area (South Cotabato, Cotabato,  Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City), Caraga (Region XIII comprising the Agusan and Surigao provinces and Dinagat Island) and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the BSP report said.

In Soccsksargen, the BSP said the looming power crisis has affected businesses and various industries. Recurring brownouts and insufficient and unstable power supply in Mindanao have also restricted economic activity in Caraga and ARMM.

Other challenges in rural areas included the presence of different crop and livestock diseases and infestations, which might jeopardize the country’s food self-sufficiency and the livelihood of agriculture-dependent communities.

The BSP added that “extreme weather conditions as a result of climate change are a significant issue in the regions, especially those that are heavily reliant on agriculture.”

The BSP said many regions risked being left behind by the country’s rapid economic growth if rural areas continued to be neglected. The BSP said unemployment in Central Luzon and Calabarzon, Ilocos and Central Visayas in 2012 were higher than the 7-percent nationwide average.

In a bid to address these challenges, the BSP said the government should hasten the rollout of various infrastructure projects outside of Metro Manila. “In the agriculture sector, improving farm productivity and rebuilding programs are expected to assist the recovery from the losses and damages inflicted by adverse weather condition,” the BSP said.

The BSP added that the government would be able to increase income levels in provinces by promoting the tourism sector.  “Hotel and resort constructions and expansions, as well as improved transportation services are expected to boost further the tourism industry across the regions,” the BSP said. Paolo G. Montecillo

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