Redeeming comparisons

Suppose this province were a country unto itself. How would this “province-imagined-country” stack up if compared with actual nations in what really matters: better lives of its citizens?

Metro Manilans would find themselves wedged between Lebanese and Peruvians, says “Philippine Human Development Report 2008/2009.”(That ranking) is “higher than Thailand but lower than Turkey.”

Benguet would clone Armenia, PHDR intercountry comparison reveals.

Cebu “matches the Palestinian territories.” Davao del Sur, Abra and Bohol lie between Nicaragua and Uzbekistan.”

“Tawi-Tawi is sandwiched between Nigeria and Senegal. Manguindanao compares to Ghana. And Sulu fits in with Mauritania and Pakistan,” the study adds.

Filipino scientists, in Human Development Network, wrote PHDR.

The biennial study started in 1990. UN Development Programme and New Zealand co-sponsored this latest study. Both the global “Human Development Report” and PHDR go beyond traditional measuring tools, e.g. gross domestic product. They apply “human development indices.” HDIs factor in life expectancy, schooling and poverty. These give insights into lives of people.

“Thosebornin2006inLaUnioncould live to 74.6 years,” the study asserts. Among Filipinos, this is now the longest life span. Those in Tawi-Tawi have life spans shorter by 21 years.

Nationwide, “Filipinos born in 2006 will live, on average, about eight years longer compared to those born in 1980,” PHDR notes. “Between 1980 and 2006, life expectancy improved by roughly three years for every decade.” “Those expected to live the shortest are in Agusan Del Norte,” Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao’s conflictsavaged provinces, and backwaters of the Cordillera Administrative Region. PHDR offers inter-country analysis. “It is eye-opening that, in an international perspective, provinces with the lowest (human development) are comparable to a number of African countries, Cambodia or Myannmar.”

Life expectancy is in the 70’s – and climbing in .Bulacan, Ilocos Norte, Camarines Sur, Benguet, Cebu, Batangas, Pampanga Cagayan and Albay, PHDR reveals. But Icelanders, life span is 81. In Iloilo and Negros Occidental, average life expectancy is 70. That’s comparable to Slovakia and Malta. Boholanos tend to live as long as New Zealanders.

“Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Maguindanao and Lanao Del Sur are worst off,” the study adds.

Abbreviated lives in this twighlight zone range from low 60s to high 50s. Lumped here are Ifugao, Kalinga, Basilan, Palawan, Apayao and Mt. Province. These resemble life spans in Yemenis or Laotians.

“Differences in homes, clothing or even menus are galling,” the late National Scientist Dioscoro Umali wrote.

“But denial of life itself and premature graves are an obscene injustice. These are death sentences. And they cut into the very depths of our common humanity.”

Look at other HDI indicators. Filipinos splurge on pork barrels but scrimp on health. For every dollar we allocate for health, Malaysians spend two, and Koreans five. This results in skewed survival rates. For every 1,000 births here, 25 infants die. Thais have cut that to 18. In every 100,000 births, 230 mothers die— a toll that approaches Cape Verde.

PHDR’s Table: “Countries Versus Provinces” provides these comparisons: Iloilo is on par with Tonga. Bracketed between Azerbaijan and Paraguay are: Laguna, Bataan, Batangas, and Pampanga.” Ilocos Norte draws alongside Syria. Zambales and Misamis Oriental are boxed between Bolivia and Mongolia.

Vietnam and Uzbekistan bracket Albay, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Sorsogon and Ilocos Sur.Lodged between Krygzstan and Vanuatu are: Misamis Occidental, Tarlac, Marinduque, Lanao del Norte and Quirino. An even larger group bunch between Tajikistan and Botswana; these are Quezon, Camiguin, Surigao del Norte, Oriental Mindoro, Zamboanga del Sur, Aklan, Aurora, Southern Leyte, Leyte, Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

After Botswana and before Morroco, you find: Romblon, Capiz, Guimaras, Surigao del Sur, Mt. Province, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Apayao, North Cotabato, Northern Samar and Antique.

Such analysis provides a “reality check.” Official mindsets here stop at the seashore. Programs pivot around the next election. The “20 Percent Development Fund, in local budgets, was to address unmet basic human needs: immunization, nutrition, safe water, etc. The fund has been perverted into a mini-pork barrel.”

Look at the “no-read-nowrite” data. In Batanes, for example, only two percent are “functionally illiterate. But that bolts to 94 percent in Tawi- Tawi.”

In Basilan, teachers are often kidnapped. There, 35 out of every 100 residents are “functionally illiterate.”

Roughly, the same level of deprivation prevails in Sarangani, Canadians, Western Samar, Siquijor, Agusan Del Sur, Eastern Samar, Negros Oriental and North Cotabato. They stand alongside Nigeria and Cameroon “The value of inter-country comparisons is redeemed only when people – seeing the gap between what is and what could be – begin to demand more of themselves and of those who purport to represent their interests.”

Will officials itching to “chacha” listen? (JOHNY MERCADO, E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.com/The Negros Chronicle)

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