By John Tria
Driving through the various provinces of Northern Mindanao we cannot help but be surprised at the images of economic bustle.
New car dealerships and malls in places like Valencia Bukidnon and Iligan City show that economic activity has spread beyond the usual hubs of Cagayan de Oro and Davao.
An eatery owner gamely tells me how many more tourists have flocked to Timoga Springs in Iligan, in droves that create temporary traffic jams along the highway. He cites the “improved safety and security” that encourages travelers in.
Does this show new 2017 growth the government reported? Many locals think so.
These images reflect recent announcements about the quality of 2017 growth figures, which reflect slight, yet significant change.
In a statement from the Department of Finance, the share of NCR in GRDP declined from 36.64% in 2016 to 36.44% in 2017. Likewise, the share of Southern Tagalog, the country’s manufacturing heartland, dropped from 18.74% in 2015 to 18.34% in 2017.
On the other hand, figures show a slightly increased contribution of SOCKSARGEN and the Davao region to national GDP, following after record growth in 2017, with Davao exceeding 10%. Growth seems to be spreading. This, on top of the unprecedented GRDP figure of the Autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao, which as we wrote previously, exceeded national GDP.
Many are impressed at these growth figures despite the mere 12-13% share of Mindanao in the national budget. https://news.mb.com.ph/2018/03/22/with-highest-poverty-rate-mindanao-still-gets-measly-share-of-ph-budget/.
But locals are hopeful for even more growth with the recent decision to increase the 2018 national budget share of Mindanao to 16.8%.
Nonetheless, advocates want a more commensurate share, about a third of the total budget, building more vital infrastructure to really allow the local economies to kick in and deliver more growth to the country.
This echoes donor agencies statements that Philippine growth will be boosted when Mindanao grows.
Of course, challenges remain. Among them, is the need to further spread growth to poorer upland communities via increased agriculture.
New financing programs promise to do just that, to finally put flesh to the Agri- Agra Law that was authored by the late Senator Angara.
Despite being mandated to allocate a larger share to agricultural financing, not many banks complied, as past governments failed to implement these vital provisions.
It is hoped that recent initiatives for easier loan access by famers groups under the department of agriculture (http://www.da.gov.ph/services/agricultural-credit-and-financing-programs/) have promoted access to credit, which is vital in increasing production.
National ID system and Ease of Doing Business Act hailed by many Mindanaoans
Despite onjections from detractors, the move to create a national ID system has raised the hope of many, especially lower income groups and those living in far flung provinces, for better and faster transactions with frontline government agencies.
This is a big help for many in these areas who do not have government IDs such as SSS memberships and drivers licenses. Nearby Malaysia has one such system which helps makes transactions easier and simpler.
Along with the passage of the Ease of Doing Business Act, these measures hope to help speed up transactions that for so long have been a grind for Mindanaoans, who often have to spend extra funds to follow up important documents and obtain documents in Metro Manila.
For Mindanao, the national ID will also help us monitor the presence of extremists, which are feared to have been present in many areas.
The challenge will be getting the cards online and out in time for their use by those who apply for and obtain them.
Those advocating for a national ID should prod government to have the right system in place to print and issue these cards effectively. With this, equal access of all parties is upheld.
No longer must we all contend with previous problems such as delayed license plates drivers licenses and passports.
These, like the national ID are vital frontline services for which government must ensure prompt service which relates to access.
Both mainstream and Social media will play a significant part in ensuring that both these measures are properly implemented. We sbould all monitor developments.
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