MANILA , JULY 24, 2013 (PHILSTAR) By Jovan Cerda - Inequality remains the biggest challenge in the Aquino administration despite economic gains posted in the first half of its term, a sociologist said.

"An inclusive, people-centred economy cannot thrive on fast growth among the very rich while leaving the very poor behind. A number of studies have identified the Philippines to have one of the highest level of income inequality in Southeast Asia.

The top 20 percent of Filipino families earn eight times more than the bottom 20 percent. Put another way, the top 20 percent account for 50 percent of national income while the bottom 20 percent's share is 6 percent," Nicole Curato, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Australian National University said.

Curato said there is a higher rate of poverty incidence in Mindanao compared to Luzon, and that studies identify the Philippines to have a wide gap in human development and land redistribution.

Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board ( showed that since 2006, poverty incidence in the country remained high and relatively unchanged. The state agency recorded a 23.4-percent poverty incidence in 2006, 22.9 percent in 2009 and 22.3 percent in 2012. In the first half of 2012 alone, it peaked at 27.9 percent.

Poverty is also asymmetrically spread throughout the entire archipelago, with some regions posting poverty incidence rates way above the national average.

Based on the latest figures, the National Capital Region (NCR) posted the lowest poverty incidence of 3.8 percent, a massive difference from the 46.9 percent recorded in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, considered the poorest region in the Philippines.

Moreover, in 2012, all the regions in Visayas and Mindanao posted poverty incidence rates that are higher than the national average. Only five regions out of 17- NCR, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon and Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) posted poverty incidence rates lower than 22.3 percent.

"This is troublesome because unequal economic development perpetuates historical injustice which usually erupts to social tensions. We leave very little options to families earning under P500 a day when they need a living wage of almost double that. Deeply unequal societies tend to be less cohesive/unified and social tensions can easily erupt," Curato said.

She said that when the government of President Benigno Aquino III assumed office, it identified education as "the central strategy for investing in our people, reducing poverty and building national competitiveness."

Curato said, however, that the way government has worked toward this goal still remains unclear even halfway through the Aquino leadership.

"Our educational system remains to be market-driven instead of focused on developing competencies that allow graduates to contribute to people-centered development. Under 2 percent of college graduates, for example, have degrees in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, which are important areas of specialization to promote food security.

Public expenditure on education- an indicator of the extent to which education is prioritized in national policy- is still one of the lowest in (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations), behind competitive economies like Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore," she said.

Noy: World in love with Philippines By Camille Diola ( | Updated July 22, 2013 - 7:53pm

A beach in the island of Palawan, cited by President Benigno Aquino III as a top tourist spot in his State of the Nation Address on Monday. RANDY FERGUSON/MALACANANG PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines - For President Benigno Aquino III, the world has "fallen in love" with the Philippines, which has been dubbed "a paradise."

In his fourth State of the Nation Address on Monday, Aquino cited international publications that recently hailed the as country among the top tourism destinations around the globe.

"Kulang na nga lang po ay tawagin na tayong paraiso," Aquino said, mentioning tourism accomplishments including the 21.4 percent surge in tourist arrivals in the past year.

Aquino mentioned Chinese dailies Oriental Morning Post and Shanghai Morning Post that named the Philippines as the "Best Tourist Destination of 2012" and the "Most Romantic Destination of 2012," respectively.

"Hopefully they will love us more," Aquino said.

He also quoted US-based Travel + Leisure magazine that chose Palawan as the world's "Best Island" and the Scuba Diving Magazine that saw the country's diving sites as the "Best Diving Destination."

The Department of Tourism said that 4.3 million visitors arrived in 2011 as it launched its viral advertising campaign "It's More Fun in the Philippines," departing from the 3.1 million arrivals in 2010.

Aquino lauded the agency for being on track in its target of 10.0 million tourist arrivals by 2016. The country aims to receive 5.5 million tourists by this year and as of 2012, the country has already recorded 4.3 million tourist arrivals.

Grabbed from SONA technical report at

"Sa momentum nating ito, tiwala tayong maaabot ng bagong target na 56.1 million bago matapos ang 2016," Aquino said in his speech.

He added that the sector also generated jobs, claiming that 3.8 million positions have been created not only in areas marked as tourist destinations but also surrounding "tourism support communities."

"Ang mga lugar na pinanggagalingan ng pagkaing inihahanda sa mga resort, ng mga souvenir na ibinebenta, at ng iba pang mga produkto’t serbisyong nagsisilbing bukal ng kaunlaran para sa ga lalawigan," Aquino explained.

Best selling American author Dan Brown, however, also made headlines in the country in June for calling Manila as the "gates of hell" in his newly released novel Inferno.

A character in the book described the capital city as one rife with traffic jams, child prostitution, terrible poverty and pollution.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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