The Asian Development Bank (ABD) country director, the Nigerian charge d' affaires and two Cabinet secretaries committed to help free more Boholanos from the shackles of poverty during the recent poverty reduction and development initiatives fair at the Bohol Cultural Center in Tagbilaran City.
Representatives of other government departments, the World Bank, foundations, funders and other development partners however also trooped to the cultural center to listen to the speakers and to view and study project proposals prepared by the different towns and city, as well as groups of towns called the Bohol Integrated Area Development (BIAD) clusters.
Gov. Erico Aumentado welcomed the participants to the activity the Provincial Planning and Development Office (PPDO) calls "a marketplace of development initiatives for poverty reduction and economic growth." PPDO organized the fair.
Aumentado said while Bohol is already safely out of Club 20 – the country's 20 poorest provinces as listed before his watch as governor, there is still much to be done.
Bohol was 41st among 79 provinces according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2005 Human Development Report. Last year, Bohol rose 11 notches higher, being listed by the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) at 52nd place, he said. Licking insurgency, he explained, definitely pulled Bohol out of the infamous club, he said.
He called on the participants to help Bohol sustain the momentum in the province's fight against poverty.
For her part, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral congratulated Aumentado and the local leaders for their efforts in lifting the province up and away from poverty – a point that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo always tells her Cabinet even when the governor is not around.
Aumentado used to sit in the Cabinet when he headed both the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) and the umbrella organization Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP).
Cabral said with Bohol's efforts to march away from poverty, she looked forward to the day when the future DSWD secretary will visit the province not as a social worker anymore but as a tourist. That would mean Bohol has finally licked not only insurgency but poverty as well, although "this may not happen yet in our lifetime."
"It gladdens the heart to see local government officials help empower the citizens. This is the key to overcome poverty – improve the people's capacity to earn and provide for themselves. Bohol is in the right track in economic growth," she sa9id.
Meanwhile, Charge d' Affaires Ndubuisi Amaku of Nigeria congratulated Bohol for its efforts in the face of the looming global crisis – and lauded the provincial leaders for being on the right development track.
The global financial, food and oil crises, he said, have given the world the opportunity to review economic theories and practices easily taken for granted before, he said.
It used to be that in poverty reduction, the government had a minimal role to play. There has been a paradigm shift from this theory: now, there is no economic development if the government does not play an active role towards attaining it, he said.
For his part, lawyer John Vistal, provincial planning officer, said he was eager to already make the big jump from poverty reduction to wealth creation through the development of the towns and where possible, through the five BIAD clusters
He presented the rationale and expected outcomes of the fair, and the project highlights of the BIADs.
By developing the Provincial Development Monitoring System (PDMS) where 12 indicators determine the level of deprivation of basic, social and other services that a local government unit, down to the household level, is suffering from, the government can prioritize the most deprived ones and match their projects with the "expertise" and forte of funders.
This way, the approach to poverty reduction is more strategic, guided further by Bohol's new focus towards economic growth through Aumentado's Ten-Point Agenda: agriculture, tourism, infrastructure, managing population growth, improving health and social well-being, attaining environmental sustainability, expanding economic opportunities, fostering creativity, peace and development in the communities and better governance.
On the other hand, ADB Country Director for the Philippines Neeraj Jain said the fair, an innovative event, was timely as the development community is vigorously searching for opportunities to promote inclusive growth.
He observed that the Philippines is one of the most decentralized countries in the region. Decentralization, he said, gives communities the power to take decisions for utilization of development funds.
.Jain said he sees the fair as an important step to inclusive growth.
"It is home-grown initiatives like these that have assisted Bohol achieve phenomenal results and become a case study of successful poverty reduction and inclusive growth in the Philippines," he said.
The development community talks of programmatic approaches to development. With its multidimensional approach to poverty reduction, Bohol has in fact created a few lessons for the development community to learn from, he said.
ADB assists LGUs by providing loans and grants for investments provided that these meet basic criteria. - June Blanco, Sunday Post