POST PRANDIUM: The failed Mindanao promise
For the poor regions, like those in Mindanao, development means overcoming widespread poverty and unemployment achieved through faster economic growth and the redistribution of income in favor of the poor to make their people live comfortably with security and freedom to fulfill their potentials in life.
Most planners, however, refer to development only to mean sustained economic growth or expansion of total output of goods and services over time as a total or in per capita basis. Consequently, most plans prepared for the country earlier were mainly economic in their orientation.
This was reflected in the balanced agricultural and industrial strategy adopted in the Hibben Plan (1948-52), industrial development in the Beyster Plan (1947-51), diversification of the economy through industrialization in the Cuaderno Plan (1949-53), agriculture development in the Yulo Plan (1950-54), and accelerated rate of economic development with emphasis on industry in the Rodriguez Plan (1955-59).
These plans were not only lacking in human dimension, and therefore not reflective of the true meaning of development; they likewise lacked spatial dimension that made them doubly meaningless to those who lived away from the center or the National Capital Region. The main concern of these plans was how to grow fast the national economy without considering that development when left alone tends to concentrate in the center at the expense of the countryside.
Realizing the great disparity in development between the center and periphery, Marcos experimented with the institution of regional planning as embedded in the Integrated Reorganization Plan (IRP) of the executive branch of the government. Completed before Martial Law, Marcos implemented the IRP through PD No, 1. Part VII of the IRP requires each region to have a Regional Development Council (RDC) to coordinate the planning and implementation of programs and projects consistent with the needs of the region.
The RDCs were fully in place by 1974. Until now, however, the problem of disparity in regional development remains. It still favors the center.
Look at Mindanao. It has 34 percent of the country’s land. The 1903 Census showed that only 671 thousand people or 8.8 percent of the total population of the country occupied it. By building roads and other infrastructure, the Americans encouraged the people of the Visayas and Luzon to migrate to Mindanao. After independence, the new Philippine government also continued the same policy.
However, more people does not mean development. Thus, while its population increased in 1975 to 21.7 percent of the national total, Mindanao accounted only for 16.9 percent of the total output of goods and service of the country. This gave Mindanao a per capita output that was equivalent only to 78 percent of the national average. This was similar to that of the Visayas but Luzon had much higher per capita output with 118 percent of the national average in the same year. The NCR had 268 percent.
Fast forward to 2015 and we find the situation getting worst. This time Mindanao only had 12.4 percent of the entire output of the country. Meanwhile, its share of the population went up to 23.9 percent. This now places its per capita output much lower at 51 percent of the national average.
Overall, for Luzon the per capita output was 1.28 times of the national average in the same year, due largely to the NCR, which raised its per capita output to 3.7 times the national average.
The Visayas has 18.9 percent of the country’s total land area. In 1975, its per capita GDP was equivalent only to 78 percent of the national average. In 2015, this was reduced slightly to 77 percent.
These figures prove that regional development planning and policy as practiced in the Philippines has failed its objective of making development more equitable or inclusive spatially.
Was it planning that was wrong or politics? Will the Bangsa Moro government experiment in Mindanao succeed? Who knows?
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