I was in Naga City over the weekend to witness the inauguration of the Naga City Governance Institute, which is an initiative by the local government of Naga City to promote best practices in local governance all over the Bicol Region.
As we all know, Naga City under the leadership of Mayor Jesse Robredo for the past 18 years has been transformed from a 3rd class city in the 1980s to the queen city of the Bicol Region today.
As a testament to his outstanding leadership, Robredo was one of the first Filipinos to receive the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service which is acknowledged as the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize. Among those who came for the inauguration were Bert Hoffman of the World Bank, Bill Luz of Ayala Foundation and Prof. Leonor Briones of the UP-National College of Public Administration and Governance.
During the talk of Prof. Briones regarding the challenges that the Bicol region continues to face in terms of uplifting the quality of life of its constituents, I was struck by her presentation of the high poverty rate that the Bicol region has.
According to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the poverty incidence in the region is at an alarming 51.1% based on its latest statistics which was gathered in 2006.
This means that more than half of the region continues to live below the poverty line or they do not earn enough to satisfy their basic requirements for food, shelter, education and healthcare.
I checked further and saw that the poverty incidence of Sorsogon as a province grew from 43.5% in 2003 to an astounding 55.3% in 2006! In 2003, the NSCB estimated that there were 300,652 poor individuals in Sorsogon but in 2006, this has already grown to 395,434!
I raised this issue since we all know for a fact that Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero who hails from Sorsogon and used to be its Congressman for several years is currently eyeing a run at the Presidency.
Given that he has served as Congressman of Sorsogon and now Senator, it is sad that his province hasn’t had much progress and in fact has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
One has to wonder if Senator Escudero has the capability to effectively run the country and curb our growing poverty if in fact he can’t help alleviate poverty in his own province.
Given that he was a Congressman whose primary duty is to represent his constituency and enact laws for the country, don’t you think it was also his duty to ensure that the national government agencies provided adequate services to his constituents in Sorsogon? Where did he place his country-wide development fund (CDF)? Sorsogon is not a big province thus, if his CDF was used properly I’m sure that many of his constituents would be enjoying a better quality of life now.
As the saying goes, charity begins at home, the challenge for Chiz is to go beyond lip service and to start to take action to ensure a better quality of life for the people of Sorsogon before he even thinks about running for President. I’m not a big fan of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but I hope that the next time Chiz begins to attack the shortcomings of our present government, it may be good for him to first look at his own backyard and work proactively towards creating genuine positive human development in the life of his constituents.
(Harvey S. Keh is Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo School of Government and is the Lead Convenor of Kaya Natin! A National Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.)
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Source: Statistics gathered from http://www.nscb.gov.ph/ru5/updates/poverty/poverty.html .