The government launched this year the Accelerated and Sustainable Anti-Poverty Program (ASAPP), a public-private partnership model, to accelerate measures to reduce poverty and boost economic growth initially in ten (10) identified provinces with high poverty incidence levels.  

Under the ASAPP, the poor communities will be matched with private companies which may need human and material resources through interventions that include skills to increase the poor’s employability in business.  This program will have substantial engagement and strong partnership with the private sector in areas with potential economic growth wherein the government will work on trade facilitation and market linkages to allow the poor to supply the needed raw materials and provide inputs and services needed by bigger businesses.  According to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), the ASAPP will try to address socio-economic gaps among Filipinos through government intervention and involving private sector to create massive employment so that those currently considered below the poverty threshold can be included in the growth process. 

As part of the program’s launching, the PhilFIDA Region IX participated in a series of kick-off activities in the province of Sulu last 13-14 August 2015.  The event was organized by the office of Atty. Asis Perez, Department of Agriculture Undersecretary for Fisheries and Concurrent National Director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), the Lead Agency Convenor - Interagency Committee for Sulu Province.  

The province of Sulu is known for abaca fiber production, however, the commodity is not the major crop in the three (3) identified municipalities, namely, Maimbung, Parang and the island municipality of Panglima Tahil, where the kick-offs of the program were launched through a caravan. 

The caravan was done one municipality at a time and started in the municipality of Maimbung on 13 August, which coincided with the celebration of its Peoples’ Day.  In his speech, Undersecretary Perez emphasized the new strategy adopted by the government to fast-track development in Sulu by bringing its services to the people.  “This event is the beginning of long lasting and sustained efforts of the government through the different participating agencies to directly engage with the people of Sulu,” Perez said.  

With the end-view of revitalizing the interest of the Sulu constituents on abaca, specifically in the municipalities of Maimbung and Parang, the PhilFIDA conducted fiber-based handicraft making demonstrations for the farmers and their families.  The livelihood demonstration created curiosity and enthusiasm to some interested attendees who learned transforming abaca fibers into small twines, bags and other handicrafts.  

Similar activities were held last 14 August in Parang and Panglima Tahil.  Fishing is the major economic activity among the locals of Panglima Tahil, however, tourism has a big potential for development since the municipality is composed of small islets, pristine beaches and good diving spots.  Resolving the peace and order problems in the area will boost the income of the people through tourism and the locals may also undergo trainings on fiber-based handicraft making with the use of other natural materials available in the area to make souvenir products attractive to foreign and local tourists. 

The two-day caravan was supported by various government agencies which include the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Agriculture-ARMM, Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), Department of National Defense -Task Force Sulu, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and  the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).  

Most of the participating agencies had conducted consultations and dialogue with the people and introduced them to various potential business endeavors. 

Sulu is among the 10 provinces classified as category 1 with high number of poor families in the updated Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 along with Pangasinan, Negros Occidental, Ilo-ilo, Quezon, Cebu, Leyte, Zamboanga, Davao del Sur and Camarines Sur, according to the statistical data of the NEDA.