SENATOR Sonny Angara on Wednesday urged the government to allocate more funds to develop the rural areas so that the rest of the country can benefit from a growing economy.
“Government spending is largely focused on urban areas despite the fact that extreme poverty in the country occurs in the less developed provinces. Government should spend more to develop our rural areas to unlock their potential in contributing to the national economy,” said Angara, chair of the Senate ways and means committee.
Based on the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) 2015 regional allocation per department, Luzon gets 63 percent or P579 billion of the P915-billion proposed budget, excluding allocations for the central offices.
Meanwhile, the National Capital Region’s share of P284 billion or 31 percent is even bigger than the combined allocation for the Visayas (P143 billion or 16 percent) and Mindanao (P193 billion or 21 percent).
A recent study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), titled “Child Poverty in the Philippines,” notes that “poverty in the country is largely a rural phenomenon,” with three out of four children from poor families living in rural areas.
The PIDS study further recognizes the need to have spatial focus to address the specific needs of provinces.
Angara noted that even a little investment in the countryside can go a long way.
The former three-termer Aurora representative has cited Baler, Aurora as an example of a rural area that has benefited from the funding of the national government.
“With the completion of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and the fixing of the Canili-Pantabangan road, tourism in Baler escalated, which resulted in job generation and improvement in the lives of thousands of Aurorans,” he said.
The lawmaker added that the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) program is a good poverty reduction program but studies have shown that it must be coupled with other programs to really have a multidimensional approach to poverty reduction.
Angara also stressed the need to improve the country’s agricultural sector by devoting more government funds for farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, and large slaughterhouses.
“We should help the rural areas attract more investors and boost their tourism drive by providing infrastructure and job-generation projects. If we help our poor provinces rise from poverty, it would definitely result in a growing and lasting impact on the economic growth of the entire country,” the senator concluded.