Last February 2010, I’ve met Jeremiah Opiniano, Executive Director of the Institute for Migration and Development Institute, a nonprofit think tank in the Philippines devoted to policy research, data banking and development journalism on Filipinos’ international migration and its development impact to the Philippines. Jeremiah was a virtually walking encyclopedia on the latest facts and figures about the Philippines! He was generous enough to share so much information and online resources. So I would like to share some highlights that I’ve learned from him and from my other readings.
Overall, 30 years of promoting outward migration and billions of dollars sent back to the Philippines in remittances did not make the country prosper.
Top 10 facts about the Philippines That Might Surprise You:
10. In 2007, the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.3% (yay!). However, poverty also increased from 24.4% to 26.9% (huh?). (Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board facts) (Philippine Inquirer News Service April 2010)
9. In 2007, more and more Filipino families are earning less than $1 a day to feed a family of five with an additional 4.7 million more families totaling 27.6 million living in poverty. (World Health Organization 2006) (National Statistical Coordination Board) (Philippine Inquirer News Service April 2010)
8. The Philippines spends 3.3% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health (World Health Organization 2006), ranking on the bottom 121 out of 185 countries. Neighboring Cambodia spends more on healthcare than the Philippines.
7. The Philippines ranked the third highest in the world in the number of physicians that left the country. In 2000, about 9,800 physicians have left and sought a better life somewhere else (World Bank Migration and Remittances Fact book 2008)
6. The Philippines have 1.16 physicians per 1,000 people (World Health Organization 2006), ranking 100 out of 185 countries. However, this hides the fact that many doctors that have remained are concentrated in the urban areas like Manila and Cebu.
5. In Palawan, they have 1 physician per 42,197 people in some outlying islands (Philippine Government Provincial Health Report 2008). Good luck finding a doctor there!
4. The island of Masbate ranked number one in the incidence of poverty with about 70.9% of its population are at or below poverty level earning less than $1 a day. Poverty continues to be worse in the more remote islands. (National Statistical Coordination Board)
3. Mindanao continues to be hit by poverty with 5 of the poorest provinces in the country are located in this southern island with about 58% to 61.9% of its population living at or below poverty level (National Statistical Coordination Board)
2.In 2005, the Philippine ranked in the top 10 emigration countries with 3.6 million Filipinos going abroad. Filipinos continue to migrate and leave the country in record numbers.(World Bank Migration and Remittances Fact book 2008).
1. In 2010, Filipinos abroad are estimated to send $18 billion in remittance back to the Philippines, a record number bucking the trend of the ongoing worldwide recession (World Bank Migration and Remittances Fact book 2008).
In conclusion, 30 years of sending workers abroad has not made the Philippines prosper much. Migration has prevented the Philippines from dire economic straits. The domestic economy has always been the problem and for this, Filipinos are “forced” to migrate (Opiniano: Diaspora Philanthropy by Filipinos, p. 30).