Philippines: Arroyo stimulus package vs. Poverty in Palawan

Road construction project in Northern Palawan between Roxas and San Vicente, Palawan. Road construction project in Northern Palawan between Roxas and San Vicente

P38,743,000 is what the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has handed out to beneficiaries of Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps in Palawan.

A program of the National Government that is similar to the EU and US stimulus packages to keep those out of work or under-earning in these tough economic times afloat while the global economy recovers. Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, or in the simplest translation is ‘helping the Filipino family bridge the gap’ is the poverty reduction strategy of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

For the Province of Palawan it targets some 22,164 poor families in Palawan located in 12 towns and some in Puerto Princesa City.

Those most ‘Prioritized towns’ per the DSWD press release, "Are those with high poverty index based on the Small Area Estimates (SAE) and Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) are Agutaya, Busuanga, Dumaran, El Nido, Linapacan, Roxas, San Vicente and Taytay in Northern Palawan." while in the Southern Half, the towns of Sofronio Espanola, Rizal and Balabac are in southern Palawan. ICoastal village in Palawan

Espanola is one of the newest towns of Palawan, actually a quite nice area for development and investment about three forths of the way south towards Brooks Point,

It could use the stimulous in many of its rural areas. Rizal, is a town that was created just towards the end of the Marcos years. It was orginally named Ferdinand Marcos Town. It once had a working runway and a small US Coast Guard loran navigation station.

A system used by seafarers and aircraft in the days before GPS was set up. The main road of the town was actually a grass and dirt runway of the US coast guard who maintained the system in partnership with the Philippine coast guard until about 1982 or so.

Actually Rizal is amazing area of natural beauty, that of late has had a lot of investment in the mining sector and does have quite a need for serious investment in areas like tourism and other development areas. Its northern nieghbor Quezon town also has a lot of potential.

Director Violeta A. Cruz, Regional Director for DSWD-MIMAROPA, she says in the DSWD press release that, "that the program has been receiving favorable feedback from the beneficiaries and their partner-agencies – the Department of Health and the Department of Education." waiting in line for health care There is a strong need in most of these areas to boost rural health care.

Earlier this year I took part in a information campaign in the Southern half of Palawan for a foundation doing medical missions there.

The plight of health problems in the area came to light.

Roads are badly needed as well as development of rural power and health care facilities also personel. Rizal for example is a testing area for the WHO, US AMRID, and CDC for malaria research a indication of intensity of malaria in the area where all major strains of Malaria are found and endemic to the area.

Director Cruz said further in the Press Release, "That initially, there has been increase in the clients and patients of rural health units seeking services for pre- and post-natal care, preventive health check-ups and vaccinations for children. In education, there are lesser drop-outs and daily attendance to day care centers, pre-school classes, elementary and high schools are very much improved."

But to be honest a lot more is needed – however not all of this can nor should it come from the National Government. Palawan is one of the richest provinces per capita in the Philippines – with a internal revenue allotment in the billions of pesos – but most of the funds are spent on other areas of concern to local government.

President Arroyo’s, "4Ps provides cash grants to beneficiaries such as P6,000 a year or P500 per month per household for health and nutrition expenses; and, P3,000 for one school year or 10 months or P300/month per child for educational expenses."

Under the program the report goes on to say, "A maximum of three children per household is allowed. Each household-beneficiary will receive the cash grants for at most five years." dairy farm projectDSWD Secretary Esperanza I. Cabral is arriving in Puerto Princesa City to visit the municipality-beneficiary of San Vicente.

She is expected to meet the municipal and barangay officials and about 2,100 program stakeholders in a people’s forum. San Vicente is a former logging town now a eco-tourism development hub in the northern part of the province.

San Vicente holds a lot of potential for growth and development. Farming, Fisheries, and tourism programs are models for other parts of the country – it is the first town in Palawan to have a private sector funded program of development projects going back to 1990-91.