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Perspective on Cordillera’s progress along the MDGs
by Cesar Liporada

From the 2012 poverty statistics released by the National Statistical Coordination Board in December 2013, one out of five Filipino families and one out of four Pinoys were poor.

How’s the Cordillera performing along the national efforts at reducing poverty and achieving the wellbeing of every Filipino until 2015 and how can the region pursue further its vision of a progressive autonomous region serving as a balanced ecosystem model in Northern Philippines towards improved quality of life for Cordillerans?

This article discusses CAR’s performance based on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and recommends how it may run its course for 2015 to 2030.

The MDGs were adopted during the 2000 UN Millennium Summit by 189 member-States. They are a set of eight goals and 18 targets to be achieved in 2015 from a 1990 baseline. The goals are: 1. Eradicating poverty and hunger; 2. Achieving universal primary education; 3. Promoting gender equality and empowering women; 4. Reducing child mortality rates; 5. Improving maternal health; 6. Combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; 7. Ensuring environmental sustainability; and 8. Developing a global partnership for development.

Cordillera is the smallest region in the country in terms of land area, at 2.78 million hectares and population at 1.6 million as of 2010. The average household size in the region is 4.6.

National and CAR performances

In this article, the eight MDGs have been clustered to four: Eradication of extreme poverty (goal 1); Education and equality (goals 2 and 3); Promotion of health and wellbeing (goals 4, 5, and 6); and Environmental sustainability (goal 7).

Goal 8 was included under the recommendations. The sources for the data were the MDG Watch and related statistics provided by the NSCB. Only the major targets and indicators were used.

Eradication of extreme poverty

The target of halving the proportion of people whose income is less than one dollar a day will not be achieved at national and regional levels. Only Baguio and Benguet had a proportion lower than the national.

In CAR, 22.8 percent of individuals and 17.5 percent of all families were poor in 2012 (Table 1). The proportion was brought down by Baguio-Benguet, with its poverty prevalence among families of 2.8 percent (5,121 families) already lower than the 2015 target.

Based on the 2009 Small Area Estimates of Poverty, the Benguet towns with the least number of poor families are La Trinidad, Itogon, Tuba, Mankayan, Tublay, and Sablan. Except Mankayan, these towns and Baguio belong to the BLISTT area. The other towns with the least poverty prevalence among families are Bontoc, Mountain Province; Bangued, Abra; Tabuk City, Kalinga; and Lamut, Ifugao.

On the other hand, the towns with more than 50 percent of poor families are Bucloc, Lacub, Sallapadan, Tubo, Malibcong, and Boliney in Abra; and Kibungan, Bakun, and Kabayan in Benguet.

Kalinga had a dramatic decrease in the prevalence of poor families from 40.6 percent in 2006 to 20.9 percent in 2012. But it fell short of the CAR target and its number of poor families stood at 8,482.

The other provinces had a prevalence rate of 27 percent or more, with near or more than 10,000 poor families each: Ifugao (14,950); Abra (13,914); and Apayao (13,462), which has the most number of poor families.

The target of full and productive employment and decent work for all will not be achieved. Nevertheless, Cordillerans shared more income to the national than people in most other regions.

A United Nations Development Program report states, “The Philippines, with a fast growing population, is not able to provide sufficient jobs to reduce poverty. Some 1.46 million young people were unemployed in 2010, half of them with secondary school educations and 40 percent with college degrees. In the search for decent work, many young Filipinos move from rural to urban areas, with some opting to go overseas.”

Cordillera ranked 13th (fourth lowest) in terms of its Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) contribution to the national coffers. But when the GRDP is divided among the population for the per capita GRDP, Cordillera was the third highest. The GRDP is the aggregate of gross value added of all resident producer units in the region.

Cordillera posted a per capita GRDP of P73,573, next only to National Capital Region and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon). All the other 14 regions have indices lower than the national average. The Autonomous Region of Muslim Minadanao is last (21.7 percent), although its population is twice (3.2 million) that of CAR.

Agriculture is the main livelihood for at least 55 percent of the households in the region. But the agricultural, fisheries, and forestry sector contributes only a little over 15 percent to the GRDP. The industry sector contributes at least 60 percent, but employs only 10 percent of the labor force and is centered in Baguio-Benguet. Meanwhile, the services sector contributes 25 percent and employs 35 percent of the labor force.

The target on hunger reduction will be achieved. Baguio-Benguet carried the performance for CAR. At the national level, the proportion of the population below the national subsistence level was reduced to 10.4 percent in 2012, within the range of the 2015 target of 8.25 percent (Table 2).

The prevalence of underweight children under five years of age was reduced to 20.2 percent in 2011, still within the range of the 2015 target of 13.6 percent.

The proportion of the population below the food threshold was reduced to 10.8 percent in 2009. Baguio-Benguet accounted for the good performance (1.7 percent), along with Ifugao (9.9 percent) and Kalinga (11.3 percent).

The other provinces have proportions higher than 20 percent: Abra – 21.9, Apayao – 25.7, and Mountain Province – 25.1.

The prevalence of underweight pre-school children was reduced from 17.3 percent in 1990 to 6.1 percent in 2011. The reduction from 1990 to 2011 per province and Baguio are: Abra – 17.1 percent in 2005 to 6.1 percent in 2011, Apayao – 22.9 percent in 1990 to 11.0 percent in 2011, Benguet – 11.8 percent to 1.8 percent, Baguio – 4.9 percent to 2.1 percent, Ifugao – 26.7 percent to 7.0 percent, and Mountain Province – 11.1 percent to 4.8 percent.

Education and gender equality

The goal of 100 percent literacy will not be achieved.

In CAR, Baguio and Abra had higher performances. The other provinces were below 70 percent. The national net enrollment ratio in primary education was increased to 91.2 percent in 2011. The proportion of pupils starting grade 1 who reach grade 6 was increased to 73.8 percent in 2011. The primary completion rate was increased to 71.0 percent in 2011. The literacy rate of 15 to 24 years old was 97.8 percent in 2008.

The proportion of pupils who reach grade 6 was only 64.0 percent in 2010, with Baguio (91.2 percent) and Abra (79.7 percent) pulling the figures up for CAR.

The rest of the provinces were below 70 percent: Apayao – 62.9, Benguet – 60.2, Ifugao – 59.7, Kalinga – 63.6, and Mountain Province – 68.0.

The same trend for CAR was recorded in 2010 for the primary completion rate (62.8 percent) and in 2008 for the literacy rate of the 15 to 24 years old (94.8 percent).

The goal of gender equality and empowerment of women have been achieved in terms of education and achievable in terms of employment.

In 2011, the ratio of one girl is to 0.9 boys finish elementary. At all levels – elementary, high school, and college – there were more women who graduated.

In college, the ratio is 1.2 women for every man. The share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector is 41.4 percent in 2013.

Although the proportion of seats held by women in Congress is only 26 percent, the women voice can be heard loud and gender-related policies are in place.

The same trend is observed for CAR in terms of the ratio of girls to boys in secondary education, with Ifugao having the highest ratio of 1.24 girls for every boy in 2010.

Promotion of health and wellbeing

The goal of reducing by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate will be achieved, although the 100 percent immunization against measles and 100 percent proportion of fully immunized children under one year old, will not be attained.

CAR had a better performance than the national.

In 2011, the national under-five mortality rate was 30 percent (per 1,000 babies), which is close to the 2015 target of 26.7 percent. The infant mortality rate was 22 percent (per 1,000 live births), which is near the 2015 target of 19 percent. The rate of immunization against measles was 68.7 percent, very far from the targeted 100 percent.

For CAR, the under-five mortality rate was 31 percent in 2008. The 2010 infant mortality rate was 9.0 percent, better and lower than the national performance of 22 percent in 2011. Among the provinces, Abra’s mortality rate was 3.4 percent; Apayao – 8.8 percent; Baguio – 11.8 percent; Benguet – 7.9 percent; Ifugao – 11.0 percent; Kalinga – 8.6 percent; and Mountain Province – 12.2 percent.

CAR had a slightly better performance in immunization against measles, with 69.4 percent in 2010. CAR registered 68.3 percent for fully-immunized children under one year old in 2010, with Abra having the highest at 84.4 percent, followed by Kalinga (79.1 percent), Ifugao (78.1 percent), Apayao (75.8 percent), and Mountain Province (61.2 percent).

Interestingly, Benguet (69.5 percent) and Baguio (47.4 percent) combined performed lower.

The goal of reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality rate and target of universal access to reproductive health will not be achieved.

CAR has a better performance than the national. The 2011 national maternal mortality ratio is 221 (per 10,000 population), far from the 2015 target of 52.

Also, only 74.9 percent of births are attended to by health personnel. The 48.9 percent contraceptive prevalence rate in 2011 is below the 100 percent target, although antenatal care coverage was 96.5 percent and unmet family planning need was 19.3 percent. The anti-Reproductive Health Law stand of the Church affected goal attainment.

CAR registered a 0.7 percent maternal mortality ratio in 2010, already achieving its 2015 target of 24.8 percent. However, only Abra, Benguet, and Ifugao will meet their targets, while Baguio, Apayao, Kalinga, and Mountain Province will fall short.

In terms of the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel, CAR registered a proportion of 86.6 percent in 2010, which is higher than the national, but far from the 100 percent target.

The goal of combating HIV/AIDS will not be achieved while the target of combating malaria and tuberculosis may be achieved.

CAR had a similar low performance with the national. From the media, HIV/AIDS is growing more than it is halted. For malaria, the prevalence rate was 7.1 percent in 2011 and the death rate is 0.1 percent in 2009. For TB, although the prevalence is 273.1 in 2008 and the death rate is 27.6 in 2009, the proportion of TB cases detected (72.0 percent) and cured (85.0 percent), is within the 2015 targets set (70.0 percent for detection and 85.0 percent for cured).

In CAR, the prevalence for malaria in 2010 was 41 percent and the death rate is zero percent. For TB, the death rate is zero percent and the proportion of TB cases cured in 2008 is 79.0 percent, still below the 2015 CAR target of 85 percent.

Nonetheless, Abra (91.0 percent), Kalinga (87.0 percent), and Mountain Province (85.0 percent) already achieved their targets; while Baguio (82.0 percent) and Ifugao (79.0 percent) are nearing theirs. Benguet (71.0 percent) and Apayao (45 percent) will most likely not achieve their targets.

Environmental sustainability

The goal of integrating the principles of sustainable development into the country’s policies and programs to reverse the loss of environmental resources is being sustained.

At the national level, the forest cover was increased to 23.9 percent in 2003 from 20.3 percent in 1990. The tonnage of ozone-depleting CFCs was removed in 2012.

CAR had increased its proportion of area covered by forest from 4.2 percent in 1990 to 7.6 percent in 2009.

The target of increasing the ratio of area protected to maintain biodiversity to surface area is also being sustained. The ratio of area protected was increased from 8.5 percent in 1990 to 13.6 percent in 2012.

In CAR, the ratio of area protected was increased from 7.7 percent in 1990 to 10.5 percent in 2010.

The target of halving the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation was also achieved.

The proportion of families with access to water supply increased from 73.0 percent in 1990 to 84.8 percent in 2010, already near the 2015 target of 86.5 percent. The proportion of families with sanitary toilet facility was increased from 67.6 percent in 1990 to 92.5 percent in 2012, already higher than the 2015 target of 83.8 percent.

In CAR, the proportion of families with access to water supply increased from 75 percent in 1996 to 78.4 percent in 2010, well within range of the 2015 target of 87.5 percent. Baguio ranked first (100 percent), followed by Mountain Province (97.1 percent), Kalinga (94 percent), Abra (87.9 percent), Ifugao (85.4 percent), Apayao (77.2 percent) and Benguet (70.6 percent).

The proportion of households with access to sanitary toilet was increased from 75.5 percent in 1992 to 78.4 percent in 2010, which is still below the 2015 CAR target of 87.8 percent. Baguio (95.5 percent), Mountain Province (83.1 percent) and Abra (82.7 percent) are above the 2015 target.

However, Benguet (77.5 percent), Kalinga (67.2 percent), Apayao (65.6 percent), and Ifugao (65.4 percent) may not achieve their targets.

Insights and recommendations for 2015-2030

Poverty reduction, sustained and inclusive economic growth, and environmental sustainability continue to be the major challenges for CAR. Nevertheless, it can harness three major strengths for 2015 to 2030.

CAR is one of only two autonomous regions. But unlike people in its ARMM counterpart and most other regions, Cordillerans are contributing more to the national income.

Perhaps, CAR is giving more to the national than it is receiving. It consistently receives the lowest budget since the basis of the allocation for the regions are land area and population, with other major considerations not factored in, like the rugged, mountainous terrain, which are impediments for CAR development, particularly in infrastructure necessary for greater access to remote areas.

But the possible increase in budget allocation must be tempered with good governance and indigenous knowledge, skills, and practices.

Balance agricultural and industrial development, along with the necessary infrastructure, social services, and technology. Baguio-Benguet boosts the regional economy, particularly through economic processing zone authority and tourism. But the industry sector provides employment for only 10 percent of the labor force. Majority of families rely on agriculture, which adds only 15 percent to the GRDP.

Pursue organic agriculture to enhance agricultural productivity, land sustainability, and biodiversity; promote sustainable employment, wellness, and a healthy lifestyle; and strengthen CAR’s position as the country’s major greens and ornamental grocer.

The strategy adopted by the Cordillera Network of NGOs and the Philippine Misereor Partnership-Northern Luzon for promoting organic farming among people’s organizations should be considered.

Enhance the cluster planning that the CAR Regional Development Council had adopted.

The BLISTT, the cluster planning for Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba, and Tublay, shall provide further employment and boost the region as education center.

A similar growth center approach for agri-business may be pursued for Metro-Bangued (Bangued, Penarrubia, Tayum, and Pidigan) with Lacub as a periphery; Ifugao (Lagawe and Lamut); and Bontoc (with Sagada, Tadian, Bauko, and Besao).

Special emphasis should be pursued in the poorest towns in Abra, which includes the cluster of Boliney, Tubo, Bucloc, Daguioman, and Sallapadan); Ifugao; and Apayao.

Pursue the secondary agri-business growth centers, such as the East Cordillera Growth Corridor or ECGC (Tabuk City and Rizal in Kalinga, Paracelis in Mountain Province, and Alfonso Lista in Ifugao, and Palmanaba (Paracelis, Natonin, and Barlig in Mountain Province; and Alfonso Lista, Mayoyao, and Aguinaldo in Ifugao to enhance rural development.

The Cordillera’s mountains, forests, and rivers are the major sources of water and hydropower and income for CAR and lowland regions.

Efforts must be exerted to improve further the existing forest cover, including the shift to organic farming and adoption of indigenous approaches to watershed management.

Pursue the quality of urban development and area-focused watershed planning and monitoring.

Increase national and local resources for the protection and management of the watershed through advocacy for exacting payment for environmental services and other monetary share of host communities for the use of national wealth.
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:: Aiming for a responsible and AIDS–free generation
:: Increasing forest covers and wildlife conservation glitches
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:: Convergence efforts key to sustain gains beyond 2015
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Informatics Institute
InterContinental Hotels Group
Medline International Training Institute Baguio
National Economic and Development Authority

Baguio Central University
Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan
Department of Agriculture – CAR
Department of Education – CAR
Department of Health – CAR
Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan
MMS Development Training Center Corporation
Municipality of La Trinidad
National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
Philex Mining Corporation
Pines City Colleges
University of the Philippines

Ahead Tutorial and Review
Baguio Memorial Chapels Inc.
Benguet Electric Cooperative Inc.
Benguet State University
BSBT College Inc.
Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – CAR
Commission on Higher Education – CAR
Congressman Nicasio M. Aliping Jr.
Cordillera School of Digital Arts
Department of Environment and Natural Resources – CAR
Department of Trade and Industry – CAR
Dreamforce Review and Training Center
Fabulo Beauty and Image Salon
Far East Pacific Commercial
Filipino–Japanese Foundation of Northern Luzon, Inc.
Ganza and Solibao Restaurants
Governor Nestor B. Fongwan
John Hay Management Corporation
La Funeraria Paz, Inc.
Mother Earth Deli Basket
Nagomi Spa
NARDA’S / WINACA Eco Cultural Village
NIIT Baguio
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Montessori
Philippine Information Agency – CAR
Philippine National Police – Police Regional Office – COR
Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Benguet
STI College Baguio
The Manor


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