COTABATO CITY: The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which is a home to 3.2 million people, is still the poorest region in the country with 53.1 percent poverty incidence, Gov. Mujiv Hataman said during the deliberation on the proposed P40.573 billion 2017 ARMM budget.
Hataman said the proposed budget amounts to a 42 percent increase over the 2016 budget which set the record as the highest approved budget for the ARMM.
He added, however, that in spite of the increased annual budget their poverty incidence figure hardly improved.
For the past three years, the ARMM government has focused on strengthening the region’s infrastructure.
“Most of the regional projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-ARMM) used to be substandard. For example, building roads used to mean just graveling and resulted in a road system that was not sustainable in the long term,” Don Mustapha Loong, DPWH-ARMM regional secretary said.
During Hataman’s first term in 2013, he focused on infrastructure to address the decades’ worth of backlog in the region’s public works and highways.
He acknowledged that a long-term approach to poverty alleviation was the basic approach and infrastructure was not the only solution.
Highlighted at the hearing of the Senate finance sub-committee chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson, were the ARMM-HELPS and ARMM-BRIDGE Apat na Dapat programs, designed to address the roots of poverty.
ARMM-HELPS, a banner program of Hataman, aims to establish a peaceful and secure environment in the region by providing basic social services especially in health, education, livelihood, good governance and peace in the villages.
Meanwhile, the ARMM-BRIDGE Apat na Dapat program focuses on poverty alleviation by targeting the basic needs of the poorest of the poor – water and sanitation, food, shelter and light.
“Any household that lacks even just one of these four is at great risk of being poor,” Hataman stressed.
He said that the bulk of the budget increase for 2017 will go to capital outlay allocation, which translates to an increase of the allocation for both ARMM-HELPS and ARMM-BRIDGE programs and for annual infrastructure.
JULMUNIR I. JANNARAL