History of the Philippine Statistical System

Katsumi Nozawa

In this article, I will discuss the changes in the statistical system of the Philippines over the past-one hundred years, relating the changes to the evolution of economic development policy. It is clear that the Philippine statistical system has oscillated between a centralized model and a decentralized model. This oscillation was the result of policy adjustments to changes in the development formula stemming from endogenous and exogenous factors.

Establishment of the Statistical System during American Rule

During the Spanish colonial rule over the Philippines (1571-1898), with the exception of the late-colonial period, no censuses were undertaken. Under the Encomienda system, the major concern of the Spanish was the collection of tributo (tributes), and corvees; thus they did not need the actual population statistics. In the 1903 survey dy Dr. Barrows, often used for 1591 population figures, the total tributo numbers were 166,903, and the tribute tax population was 667,612. However, the tributario (the unit for counting tribute tax) was four people, so this number was not the actual population.

The first Spanish government census, carried out by the Spanish king's fiat, was conducted in 1878. A similar census was carried out under another royal decree in 1887 and 1898, but the 1898 census was conducted during the Spanish-American War, and was never completed.

From about the middle of the 18th century, Catholic church parish es kept records of baptisms, marriages, and deaths, making possible some population estimates. But these records turned out to be only for the Christian population.

The Spanish colonial statistical system began when a Officina Central de Statistica was established in the Direccion General de Administration Civil under the implementation of the Spanish civil law in the Philippines in 1889. In the Spanish population and civil registration system, priests were obliged to report births, marriages, and deaths which occurred within their parish to the Officina Central de Statistica in Manila. The publication of the Boletin de Estadistica de la Ciudad de Manila, a monthly journal, was started in 1895, making available population and vital statistics for the first time.

As a result of the Spanish-American War, the Philippines became American territory. During the American colonial period (1898-1946), a national census was conducted three times in total, but the organizations which carried out the censuses were different each time. With the 1903 census, under the orders of the central colonial administration, the Philippines Commission, the Census Bureau of the Department of Public Instruction carried out the survey, and the United States Census Bureau processed the statistics. Both the 1903 and the 1918 censuses included agricultural and industrial statistics in addition to population statistics, but were both small-scale.

Under the Jones Atc of 1916, granting independence to the Philippines as soon as possible was determined to be the basic policy. Under government guidance, the Philippine National Bank (PNB), and the semi-official National Development Company (NDC) were established in 1916 and 1919 respectively. In 1918, the Bureau of Commerce and Industry, containing a statistics division within it, was established in the Department of Commerce and Communications, and this statistics division collected statistical information for thirteen years up to 1932. The Philippine Islands Census Office conducted the second nation-wide census in 1918, with full participation by Filipinos.

Statistics divisions were established within the Bureau of Agriculture in 1902, and in the Bureau of Labor in 1908. In 1932, the Bureau Commerce and Industry was amalgamated into the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. As a result, the Division of Agricultural Statistics in the Bureau of Agriculture was absorbed by the Division of Agricultural Statistical under the Department of Agriculture and Commerce. Statistical commentaries were published in The Philippine Statistical Review.

Independence for the Philippines was set for July 4, 1946 under the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934. In the Commonwealth period (1936-1946) to facilitate the construction of economic foundations, an economic policy advisory organ, the National Economic Council (NEC), was formed in 1936. In the same year, the NDC was nationalized, and the number of government enterprises increased due to financing from the PNB. In short, the state's role in the economy increased.

In the same period, the statistical system developed greatly. First, the 1939 census was conducted by the Census Committee. In addition to population, the census surveyed forestry, transportation, fisheries, and electric power. Moreover, the statistical offices were reorganized and integrated. In 1940, under Commonwealth Act No. 591, the Bureau of Census and Statistics (BCS) was formed in the Office of the President. This was the early incarnation of the present-day National Statistics Office (NSO). At this point, the statistical work which had been carried out under the Statistics Division of the Department of Agriculture and Commerce, the Labor Statistics Division of the Department of Labor, Vital Statistics Division of the Health Bureau of the Department of Public Education, the Statistical Division of the Customs Office, and the 1939 Commission of Census, all became integrated under the BCS. Thus, agricultural and industrial statistics, labor resource statistics, population statistics, and trade statistics, were all united under one supervisory organ. The results of the new system were published in 1941 as the BCS's first publications Yearbook of Philippine Statistics, 1941, and the Journal of Philippine Statistics.

It should be noted that during the American period, a civil registration system was put into place, and continues to this day. In 1901, the Philippine Commission appointed municipal secretaries as local registrars to handle the civil registration. In 1922, this responsibility was transferred to the Division of Archives, National Library, then in 1930 to the National Library, and with the establishment of the Bureau of Census and Statistics in 1940, to the BCS. In present day Philippines, the National Statistics Office (NSO) supervises the civil registration system.

Postwar Recovery Period and the Statistical System

Upon its independence in July 1946, the recovery from the damages incurred from World War II was the biggest challenge facing the Philippines. The statistical system in the postwar recovery period (1946-1955) was in essence a continuation of the colonial period structures. In 1948, the Bureau of Census and Statistics (BCS) conducted the first postwar census.

Of note during this period was the addition of national accounts statistics to the previous survey categories. The first national income estimates for the Philippines was the 1947 Philippine-American Joint Finance Commission's Report estimates for national income for the years 1938 and 1948. This Commission was despatched to assess the rehabilitation program proposed by the Philippines government. The Report also recommended the establishment of a central bank.

The Central Bank of the Philippines was established in 1949, and its Economic Research Division started work on national income estimates in 1950, initially for the years 1948-50 based solely on the final value of goods and services produced as were the estimates in the 1947 Report. Ultimately, national income estimates for 1946-1957 were released, using the double entry method introduced in 1952. National income analysis was conducted, but mainly in relation to evaluations of fiscal and public finance policy.

Postwar economic recovery and economic planning required specialists of statistics. In the early years, people were sent to study in the U.S., then once they returned to the Philippines, the returnees contributed greatly to the development of the statistical system. This growth was reflected in the establishment of the Philippine Statistics Association (PSA), and a Statistics Training Center founded as a result of a proposal by the PSA.

The PSA was established in 1952. Of the eighteen founding members, two were American statisticians. The statistical theory journal, The Philippine Statistician, which the PSA began publishing in 1952, continues to this day, and is still highly regarded in the field.

The Statistics Training Center was established in 1953 as a joint project between the Philippines government and UN, with the objective of improving government statistics on the basis of a five year plan. The Center was attached to the University of the Philippines. The first director was Enrique Virata (father of former Prime Minister Cesar Virata) and Benjamin Higgins was despatched as an advisor from by the UN. Higgins contributed greatly to construction of the "Five-Year Economic and Social Development Program" (1957-61).

The Development Plan and the OSCAS

In the period of import substitution industrialization policy (1956-1971), the emergence of the Magsaysay administration in 1953 marked a turning point for the statistical system. First, the National Economic Council (NEC), formed in 1936, was restructured in 1955, establishing the National Planning Division, Foreign Aid Coordination Division, Office of Statistical Coordination and Standards (OSCAS), and granted it economic planning powers. In 1957, aiming at a thorough development plan, the NEC National Planning Division wrote up, "Five-Year Economic and Social Development Program"i1957-61j(hereafter the "1957 Plan") was distributed as a formal development plan created by a government organ. The work on national income estimates was transferred in 1957 from the Economic Research Division of the Central Bank of Philippines to the OSCAS. The plan was to use national account statistics in economic development planning. In fact, in the "1957 Plan," the target GNP levels are clearly indicated.

In the succeeding years, several adjustments were made in order to improve the accuracy of the national accounts statistics. In 1968, the 1946-67 national income estimates were revised. Direct estimations of private consumption expenditures, which had been left as a residual, were conducted, which allowed the value added base to be checked. Under the direction of the NEC chairman Gerardo Sicat, in 1971, a manual on national income estimations was also published.

The OSCAS went to work producing input-output tables of inter-industry relations. The first table was the 1961 input-output table, completed in 1965 as a result of a joint project with the College of Liberal Arts of the University of the Philippines (a portion of this College became the School Economics later on) in 1965. The OSCAS produced the 1965 input-output table by itself in 1969.

Results such as the national accounts statistics were constantly published in the OSCAS quarterly, The Statistical Reporter, which began in 1959. This journal, though its objective was publicizing developmental issues related to government statistics, also included input-output analysis, foreign aid problems, and a wide range of other development issues.

Interestingly, while the OSCAS was handling the intensification of statistical information, during this period, reflecting the decontrol policy, the statistical system was decentralized. From 1951, the Bureau of Census and Statistics was moved from the Office of the President to the Department of Commerce and Industry, but in 1956, the various types of surveys, such as agriculture, natural resources, banks and finance, labor resources, vital statistics, educational statistics, were distributed to the various departments, and the BCS was left with population censuses as its province.

The Transition to a Centralized Statistical System

The era of the decentralized statistical system gave way to a period of centralized statistical system (1972-86) part-way through the Marcos years. In September 1972, President Marcos declared the martial law and closed down Congress. Following the lead of neighboring Asian countries, the Marcos government switched the emphasis to an export-oriented industrialization policy and state-directed open door policy, symbolized by the "Four-Year Development Plan" (1974-1977). The core organization in this new set of policies was the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), established in 1973, a renovated version of the old NEC. Unlike with the NEC, technocrats would draft development plans on the direct orders of the NEDA chairman, the president.

Of the statistical functions, powers, and responsibilities of the NEDA with special retere nce to the statistical activities, the following three areas were emphasized: (1) the coordination of all statistical work in the various government agencies; (2) the development and prescription of statistical standards and methods; and (3) the development of economic accounts for planning. To perform these functions, the Statistical Coordination Office, (SCO) was created, absorbing the function of the OSCAS. Then the Statistical Programs and Standards Staff (SPSS) and National Accounts Staff (NAS) were placed under the SCO.

National accounts statistics became very important in policy-making in the state-centered development plan, and the NEDA National Accounts Staff, as the name might indicate, was responsible for the national accounts estimates. The NEDA Statistical Advisory Committee was established to provide horizontal linkages among the various ministries. In 1976, the base year was changed from 1967 to 1972. The reliability of the national accounts statistics was increased by such moves as adjusting them to match the 1968 revised UN- SNA system. In 1978, the second edition of the manual on the Philippine system of national accounts was published. In addition to such results, the 1974 Statistical Yearbook was published in March 1974 as the official statistical annual.

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Census and Statistics of the Department of Commerce and Industry (BCS), which had been responsible for the censuses, was placed under the administrative supervision of the NEDA.

The Reconstruction of a Decentralized Statistical System

Let us turn to the post-Marcos years of the Aquino and Ramos administrations (1986-1998). Under the Aquino government, established in February 1986 on the wave of "People Power," the state-centered development methods of the Marcos era were recognized as failures, and private sector promofion, deregulation, and decentralization became the cornerstones of economic policy. With economic assistance from international financial institutions and donor countries, economic reconstruction was placed at the top of the government's list of priorities. The basic economic reform direction has been maintained by the succeeding Ramos government.

These fundamental changes were reflected in the statistical system. The provisional government issued Executive Order No. 121 "the Reorganizing and Strengthening the Philippine Statistical System and For Other Purpose" in January 1987. The Order outlined the necessity for a decentralized statistical system, and divorced the statistics-related institutions from the development planning organs. More specifically, the following division of labor was devised.

First, the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) was established as the highest policy formulation body in charge of statistics policy and statistics coordination. The NSCB Chairman of the board of directors was the Director-General of the NEDA, and the Vice Chairman was the Undersecretary of the Department of the Budget and Management (DBM), and other board members were the undersecretaries of other departments. Furthermore, the NSCB did not compile primary sources, but concentrated on coordination. The Technical Office of the NSCB had two divisions within it, the Statistical Programs and Resource Management Office (SPRMO) and the Economic and Social Statistics Office (ESSO). The latter was responsible for areas such as national accounts statistics and the input-output tables.

Second, the name of the Office of National Census Statistics (NSCO) was changed to the National Statistics Office (NSO), and was made independent of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). The NSO was given the responsibility of compiling general objective statistics, conducting various censuses, and carrying out specific NSCB-directed surveys.

Third, to train statistics specialists needed to staff the decentralized statistics system, the Statistics Training and Research Center (STRC) was established. The STRC was made responsible for the training of those overseeing statistical projects in various government agencies, and for research on the development of government statistics.

After the founding of the NSCB, all other statistics-related organizations were reorganized as well. I summarize some of the main points below.

For agricultural statistics, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) was set up in January 1987. This was a successor organization to the Bureau of Agricultural Economics (BAECON) formed in 1963. The BAS absorbed the Bureau of Fisheries Statistics, and placed within the Department of Agriculture.

With regards to labor statistics, also in January 1987, the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) was organized. This was a renovated and fortified version of the Labor Statistics Service (LSS) of the Department of Labor formed in 1962.

Health statistics were placed under the Health Intelligence Service (HIS), established in January 1987. This was a reorganized version of the Disease Intelligence Center, established in 1961, and aimed at an integration of health-related information (see).

The Future of the Statistical System

I have outlined briefly the changes experienced by the statistical system of the Philippines over the last 100 years. Currently, the construction of a statistical system which can offer basic information on poverty, environment, gender, and other problems facing the Philippines is being carried out at a rapid pace. A decentralized statistical system which can respond to the needs of the various sectors of society seems to be the most effective system for achieving this purpose.

However, in the existing statistics-related government agencies, there is a shortage of personnel and resources to meet these multiple needs. In particular, the printing of publications, which would expedite the efficient availability of and access to statistical data and documents, has been facing serious difficulties. In order to fulfill its roles and tackle present challenges, the Philippines statistical system is increasingly faced with a need for international cooperation and support.

(Asia University, Faculty of International Relations)