The Bangsamoro Organic Law or BOL (Republic Act No. 11054) was signed by President Duterte on July 23, 2018. The new law provides for the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) or simply the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region. It covers the provinces of Basilan, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi, the same provinces as ARMM.
Will the BOL usher the start of broad-based poverty reduction in the region?
This is a key strategic question as high poverty hounds the region. In 2015, of the 3.7 million people, 2.0 million people (53.7 percent) were poor. In contrast, its neighbors, Soccsksargen and Zamboanga Peninsula have 37.3 percent and 33.9 percent, respectively, compared to the national average (excluding NCR) of 25.4 percent.
Meanwhile, the Davao region reduced its poverty incidence to 22 percent in 2015 from 30.6 percent in 2006.
Over the past 25 years, only ARMM posted rising poverty incidence as compared to all the geographic regions. ARMM’s poor population rose to 1.99 million in 2015 from 0.63 million in 1991, a three-fold increase. By comparison, Soccsksargen’s rose by 1.4x to 1.72 million from 1.2 million; and Zamboanga’s 1.4x to 1.27 million from 0.91 million. The national figure outside NCR barely increased.
(% of total population)
|Philippines, excluding NCR||38.8||29.7||29.6||28.2||25.4|
Source: Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
Despite its rich natural endowment, ARMM’s poverty reduction record is unfortunate. Many studies have identified the causes: poor governance, feudalism, clan feuds (rido), weak infrastructure, land disputes and, foremost, unstable peace and order.
To provide a better picture of the region’s economic performance, let’s look at its dominant crops, farm productivity and industrial development, and compare them with the other regions.
Palay, corn and coconut are dominant in the three regions. ARMM is behind in irrigation area ratio (24 percent) as compared to Zamboanga (58 percent) and Soccsksargen (78 percent). It is also behind in the adoption of yellow corn: 16 percent vs. eight percent and 71 percent, respectively. It is slightly less diversified.
Land Use, 2015
|Rice: irrigated, percent||24||58||78||69|
|Yellow corn, adoption rate, percent||16||8||71||51|
Dominant Crops, 2015
Share to total of six crops, in percent
|Palay||Corn||Coconut||Others||Total Area, ha|
Other Crops: banana, coffee, rubber
Palay yield is low in ARMM at 2.5 tons/ha as compared to Zamboanga 4.0 tons/ha and Soccsksargen 3.8 tons/ha. It is better than Zamboanga in corn. Meanwhile, it rails Soccsksargen in coconut banana, rubber and coffee. But it is ahead of Zamboanga in coconut.
Farm productivity, Major Crops, Long-Term
Tons per hectare
|Coffee, green beans||0.4||0.4||0.3||0.4||0.5||0.6|
ARMM’s share of manufacturing to gross regional domestic product (GRDP) is comparatively low. In 2017, Soccsksargen and Zamboanga had manufacturing shares to GRDP of 20.5 percent and 20.7 percent while ARMM had only one percent, the lowest among the 15 regions outside Metro Manila (MM). The manufacturing sector provides stable and remunerative jobs. But agro-industries can only flourish by investing in productive and diversified agriculture value chains.
In order to reduce the high poverty, BARMM must confront the low farm productivity and diversify its economy. But massive poverty cannot be solely explained by low yields. There could be inequalities in the sharing of fruits due to unequal control of the means of production by the ruling elite.
(This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is the Co-Vice Chair of the MAP AgriBusiness Committee and the Executive Director of the Center for Food and AgriBusiness of the University of Asia & the Pacific. Feedback at <firstname.lastname@example.org> and <email@example.com>. For previous articles, please visit <map.org.ph>)