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'Imperial Manila' blamed for poverty in ARMM

MANILA, Philippines - Saying recent government statistics merely bolstered their observation, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) blamed "Imperial Manila" Sunday for Muslim Mindanao's being the poorest region in the country. MILF deputy spokesman Khaled Musa said the report is very discerning to everyone in the region who must see reality and act decisively and rightly. "The report is just a paper validation of what really is the correct economic marginalization of this region," he said but added poverty is mainly the offshoot of a deeper problem and the long running trouble in Mindanao. "The Moros are not indolent; they just lack correct motivation and sufficient support from the government," he added. Musa said the poverty of the Moros is the consequence of neo-colonialism by "imperial Manila" that "deprived our people to run themselves unfettered and unhampered." Also, he said the continuous fighting in Moro areas explained why the people are unproductive. "They keep on moving from one place to another and this non-permanency of residence makes them rely on mostly short-term means of livelihood," he said. Government figures for 2006 showed poverty in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reached 55.3 percent, a 9.9-percent increase from 2003's 45.4 percent. The incidence of poverty in the pre-dominantly Moro region is more than two times the national average of 26.9 percent. It was not the first time that ARMM's registered the highest poverty incidence. In 2000, the region was the country's poorest with a 53.8 percent poverty incidence. Three years later, it was dislodged as the poorest region by CARAGA (Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur). MILF noted at least three of ARMM's six provinces — Tawi-Tawi, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur — were also among the ten poorest provinces in the country in 2006. It said Tawi-Tawi had the highest poverty incidence of 78.9 percent among 81 provinces. Maguindanao had the third highest poverty incidence at 62 percent, while Lanao del Sur ranked sixth with 52.5 percent. Other ARMM provinces like Basilan and Sulu had poverty incidence rates of 31.7 and 46.5, respectively. Data for the newly created province of Shariff Kabunsuan, however, were unavailable. Aside from ARMM, among the regions with the highest poverty incidences were CARAGA (45.5%), Region IV-B or MIMAROPA (43.7), Bicol Region (41.8), and Eastern Samar (40.7) MIMAROPA is composed of the provinces of Marinduque, Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Palawan, and Romblon. Regions in Luzon, meanwhile, registered the lower poverty incidence. Among the 17 regions, Metro Manila had the lowest poverty incidence of 7.1 percent, a 2.2 percent increase from 2003. Other regions with the lowest poverty incidence were Metro Manila's neighbors CALABARZON and Central Luzon with 16.7 and 16.8 percent, respectively. Also included in the top five regions with low poverty incidence are Cagayan Valley (20.5) and Ilocos Region (26.2). Only four regions registered a decrease in poverty incidence between 2003 and 2006 compared to 13 regions between 2000 and 2003. Among the regions where poverty incidence declined are Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, CARAGA and Western Visayas. - GMANews.TV