Bulacan commemorates 119th anniversary of Malolos Congress

Echiverri said Duterte wants to alleviate the poverty in Mindanao and the entire Philippines before the end of his term. He added Lanao del Sur, Lanao …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines
Visiting conflict-affected communities in the Philippines: a Country Director’s experience

Visiting conflict-affected communities in the Philippines: a Country Director’s experience

Country Director Mara Warwick poses with the women of Maguindanao, in Mindanao, southern Philippines who are benefiting from livelihood projects under the multi-donor Mindanao Trust Fund.
Photo: Justine Espina-Letargo/World Bank

Peace – something that many of us take for granted in our own lives – is elusive for millions of people around the world, including in southern Philippines.  Long-standing conflict between the government and rebel groups, and a complicated patchwork of clan and family conflicts, has led to decades of economic stagnation and poverty in one of the Philippines’ most beautiful and productive regions – Mindanao.  A peace process is hopefully nearing its conclusion and is expected to bring autonomy and with it, greater opportunities for peace and development to the people of the Bangsamoro.

The Philippines is a middle-income country – with GDP at $2,953 per capita and a robust economy, with almost 96% enrollment rate in basic education, and improving health indicators such as child mortality; overall the country is doing well.  But these numbers mask sharp regional contrasts: in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) the GDP per capita is only $576 – equivalent to countries like Rwanda and Afghanistan – the poverty rate is 53.7%, and more than 50% of its employed population are in agriculture with 80% of them working as subsistence farmers, living precariously from crop to crop.  One crop failure can mean ruin for a family.

Before coming to the Philippines to work, I had never worked in conflict-affected areas.  There are many colleagues in the World Bank who specialize in this, who are passionate and dedicated, driven to work harder and longer to see positive outcomes for the communities their work supports, and it is not hard to see why. 

Visiting areas subject to conflict for decades is at once distressing and uplifting.  In the most conflict-ridden areas of Mindanao people are very poor – they live in reed houses, most often do not have running water, sanitation or electricity, and the roads, where they exist, are not sealed, becoming quagmires on a rainy day. 

When fighting erupts as it all too often does, communities have to flee, sometimes becoming dislocated for years at a time.  They farm low value crops – mostly corn and rice – because they cannot afford to plant anything else. They cannot invest in high-value crops like coconuts that take a while to mature for fear that they cannot stay for years in their communities.

And yet visiting these areas is also uplifting.  Why?  Because these people have a pride, grace, resilience, and good humor that deeply impresses me.  We are always greeted warmly and our conversations are infused with laughter.  They are endlessly fascinated with my height (tall) and my hair color (light).  We talk about our children and the things we enjoy doing. 

These are also amazingly practical people.  In one community supported under the Mindanao Trust Fund, the people’s committee set up to oversee the project comprised all women.  When I asked the chairwoman of the committee why this was, she said (with a laugh) that the men in the village had asked the women to lead the project because the men thought that if they had been in the lead, there would have been too much arguing and not enough decision-making!

Mindanao is at a critical juncture.  The ongoing conflict in Marawi shows how the situation is changing and new stresses, including the rise of extremism, present a real risk for many countries, including the Philippines.  

The solution is not easy, but a place to start is with the youth.  Young people need hope for the future – education, a job, the right to their own self-identity and self-expression, and freedom from poverty.  In my conversations with mothers in Mindanao, I hear echoes of my concerns about my own children. Are they healthy?  Are they doing well at school?  What will they be when they grow up?  Our concerns are the same, but the foundation and stability on which we base our support for our children differs like night and day.

In one of the communities we visited in Maguindanao, we spoke with a group of young people who had just completed an Alternative Learning Course – a 5-month intensive literacy course for adults who either dropped out of school or were not able to attend when they were children.  They had studied hard during their 5-month course – excited by the unexpected opportunities that could now be ahead of them.  Although they had not yet even completed their final exams, 8 of the cohort of 50 had already been admitted to technical vocational training in a nearby town.  And when I asked those with whom we met what they wanted to be, the young women were particularly vocal: “I want to be a midwife!”, “I want to be a teacher!”.  And with the kind of grit and determination that these young women possess, I can only bet that they will be too.

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Afghanistan, Oman, Philippines

Obama: ‘No one nation’ can confront global development challenges

The report, citing data projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, found progress in areas like poverty …

by · Thursday, 21 September 2017 · Philippines

NAPC produces docu-drama on life of Manobo chieftain Bib Bibyaon

The National Anti-Poverty Commission held a conference on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, on the docu-drama on the life of Manobo tribal chieftain Bai …

by · Wednesday, 20 September 2017 · Philippines

Unlocking the Philippines’ urbanization potential

Fostering Livable Cities

The Philippines is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in East Asia and the Pacific. This can bring many opportunities for growth and poverty reduction. Cities become engines of growth if well planned and well managed.

Rapid urbanization in the Philippines has brought new jobs, educational opportunities, and better living conditions for some. However, it has also brought challenges, which you’ll see when you move around the streets of Metro Manila. It’s a large sprawling metropolitan area of over 12 million, with congestion that is estimated to cost US$70 million (₱3.5 billion) a day. When it rains, streets and homes are quickly flooded because many drains are clogged or non-existent. Because of lack of affordable housing, an estimated 11 percent of the city’s population live in slums. With 17 cities and municipalities in the metropolitan area, trying to tackle these challenges becomes stuck in deep complexities of urban governance and management. While other cities in the Philippines don’t face the scale of these challenges, they tackle similar issues.

Why are things so complex? There are a number of underlying structural issues affecting urbanization in the Philippines, such as the country’s archipelagic geography which creates divisions in connectivity both within the country and to external markets; a stagnating manufacturing sector that has not resulted in high quality jobs and, in turn, has negatively affected urban-led growth; and the country’s high exposure to natural hazards, particularly flooding and earthquake risks, all of which exacerbate urban management challenges.

Beyond these key structural issues are two binding constraints which, unlike the structural issues, can be addressed through a bold reform agenda. These include fragmented institutional arrangements for urban development and metropolitan governance, and major shortcomings in land administration and management. The resulting impacts of these issues, coupled with rapid urbanization, have greatly hampered city competitiveness, job creation, poverty reduction and livability.  

That said, there are reasons for optimism. One only has to look at the vibrant private sector and development of urban areas such as Bonifacio Global City in Metro Manila, the Iloilo Business Park in the Visayas island, and a number of other successful programs in towns and cities to know what is possible.

The recently completed report Philippines Urbanization Review, Fostering a System of Competitive, Sustainable and Inclusive Cities, sets forth priorities for a bold reform agenda in i) addressing the binding constraints of weak institutions to improve the delivery of necessary infrastructure, services and sustainable urban planning, and ii) improving land administration management to open up land markets for city competitiveness. Other key priorities call for investments in infrastructure, particularly more affordable mass transport such as metro rail transit and bus rapid transit systems, simplification of licensing requirements to attract more investment, a focus on affordable housing and the delivery of basic services, and encouraging poor children to finish secondary education for better job opportunities.

If key stakeholders in the Philippines, namely government, the private sector, and civil society -working in partnership – can take on these challenges with a needed urgency for action starting with top priorities, there is so much that is possible. Cities can indeed become engines for competitive, sustainable and inclusive growth, giving residents new opportunities with the potential for lasting impact.  

by · Wednesday, 20 September 2017 · Philippines

LANDBANK bags Karlsruhe award for 5th straight year

“This recognition is a validation that we are on track in helping reduce poverty by providing access to bigger funding sources for projects that promote …

by · Wednesday, 20 September 2017 · Philippines


The subject on the priest’s vow of poverty came out from a charge in a Facebook that I quoted last week. It elicited an immediate clarification from …

by · Tuesday, 19 September 2017 · Philippines

DTI-ARMM launches social enterprise in poorest of the poor region

Malang is hopeful that through the social enterprise, Mindanaoans will find a way to move out of poverty. “If we achieve freedom from hunger, then …

by · Tuesday, 19 September 2017 · Philippines

DTI-ARMM launches social enterprise in poorest of the poor region

Malang is hopeful that through the social enterprise, Mindanaoans will find a way to move out of poverty. “If we achieve freedom from hunger, then …

by · Tuesday, 19 September 2017 · Philippines

The real test of economic growth

“Inclusive growth” is a valid goal for a country because social inequality breeds poverty and discontent which, in turn, provide the powder keg …

by · Monday, 18 September 2017 · Philippines