Rich provinces, poor provinces
There are rich regions and poor regions.
But how does one reconcile the wide disparities in poverty within a region when they are geographically connected? Or when provincial borders are artificial?
This article will analyze the data on poverty incidences within a region with physically contiguous areas.
Central Luzon has one of the lowest poverty incidences among regions but it presents contrasts. There are wide disparities in poverty incidences from low single digits (e.g., Bataan, Bulacan and Pampanga) to high double-digits (e.g., Nueva Ecija and Aurora).
The high poverty of Aurora is understandable as it is the most remote province facing the Pacific. Baler, the capital, is 275 kilometers (km) away from Manila and is almost six hours travel by car. By contrast, Iba, Zambales ,is 242 km, or 4.5 hours from Manila.
What is baffling is the high poverty of Nueva Ecija (22.6 percent), which borders Pampanga (4.9 percent) and Bulacan (4.5 percent). Nueva Ecija is a rice granary and a high rice yielder. Similar story for Tarlac.
Calabarzon is the industrial corridor of Luzon. Four of the five provinces there have low poverty. By contrast, Quezon has a poverty incidence of 22.7 percent, higher than the national average. This can be partly explained by its distance from Metro Manila and absence of industrial zones. Its heavy dependence on low-yield coconuts (the largest area in the country), poor infrastructure, and ongoing insurgency are contributory factors.
Western Visayas is an enigma. Guimaras, Capiz and Aklan have a lower poverty level compared to the larger provinces of Iloilo and Negros Occidental. Certainly, tourism is a factor for Aklan with Boracay in its midst.
What is very surprising is that Antique, the source of the sacadas in the past, has a lower poverty rate than Negros Occidental. The reason could not be agriculture. Negros has far more extensive agriculture than Antique. It is likely remittances. For example, there is large Antique diaspora in Mindanao, especially Cotabato.
Northern Mindanao is a study in contrast. Misamis Oriental has low poverty principally because of Cagayan de Oro, the services center, as well as industrial estates along Macalajar Bay. Phividec Industrial Estate alone has 30 locators. The other provinces have high poverty incidences.
The most perplexing is Bukidnon, an agribusiness center.
Over half of its people are poor. Its land area is almost 60 percent of Northern Mindanao with good climate and varied topography.
It is a major producer of rice, corn, pineapple, sugar, banana, coffee, rubber, tomato, flowers, cassava, and vegetables. It is also a major producer of chicken, hogs, and cattle. And yet, it has a high poverty incidence.
Davao, the premier agribusiness region in the country, remains poor with a poverty incidence tying the national figure.
Davao is a major player in banana, coconut products, banana chips, fruits, cacao and coffee. The chocolate industry is a sunrise development. Davao City is the services hub of the island.
The higher poverty of Davao del Norte, the banana capital of the country, as compared to Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley, is hard to understand.
What causes the large disparities among provinces in the same region? These are likely quality of local governance, economic opportunities, farm productivity, remittances and culture.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.