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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
To you, Mr. President, the Philippines expresses its commendation and gratitude for convening this thematic debate on the theme “Recognizing the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the MDGs by 2015” . No one can dispute or doubt the wisdom of the choice of the topic and of the excellence it is crafted.
As we come closer to the self-imposed target date on the Millennium Development Goals(MDG’s), this thematic debate is not only most relevant, appropriate and in order; it is urgently necessary and critically important.
At the heart of the MDGs are social justice and human rights. And the Constitution of the Philippines expressly provides that Congress shall give highest priority to the enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of all the people to human dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good. (Sec,I, Article XIII).
Like the other Member States, the Philippines gives top priority to achieving the MDGs. The policies and strategies in its Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2004-2010 are designed to pursue and achieve the MDGs.
In pushing forward the MDGs agenda, key players in the Philippines have performed significant roles to help realize the MDGs. The Department of Budget and Management issued policy guidelines and procedures in the preparation of national and local budget proposals emphasizing the importance of funding programs, projects and activities in support of the MDGs. A Special Committee on the MDGs was created in the House of Representatives of the Congress of the Philippines , and the latter has formulated an MDG Legislative Agenda prioritizing legislative measures attuned and responsive to early realization of the MDGs. The Department of Interior and Local Governments issued a “Guide to Local Government Units in the Localization of the MDGs” to guide the local government units in interpreting and incorporating the MDGs in their local development planning and budgeting
The Social Watch Philippines, an NGO, led the joint NGO-legislators alternative budget advocacy campaign. The campaign resulted in an increase of PhP22.7 billion in additional proposals for MDG-related activities, and approval of PhP5 billion pesos for the 2007 national budget. Another NGO, the PhilippineBusiness for Social Progress (PBSP), led the business sector in crafting the Philippines ’ MDG Framework for Business Action. The framework shows how the business sector can help attain the MDGs through core business, social investment and policy advocacy in four major areas, namely: poverty, education, health, and environment. As of 2007, a total of 159 companies supported the Business and MDGs Program and invested an estimated amount of around PhP200 million.
Midway towards 2015, the Philippines has made considerable strides in meeting most of the MDGs. Using the tracking methodology, that is, the probability of meeting the MDG targets determined by using the ratio of the annual rate of change needed to reach the target to the current annual rate of progress, the Philippines is likely to meet the targets on poverty reduction, nutrition, reducing child mortality, combating HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and access to safe drinking water. The target of 83.8 percent for access to sanitary toilet facility has been attained as early as 2004 when the country posted an 86.2 percent achievement.
The correct policy, plans and programs are in place to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, and given appropriate support from the Global Fund for AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, the Philippines would be able, hopefully, to attain this MDG target.
One particular area of progress in the achievement of the MDGs is in the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. The Constitution of the Philippines expressly provides that the State recognizes the role of women in nation building and shall ensure the fundamental equality before the law of women and men (Sec.14, Article II). The Philippines considerably improved its scores in the Gender Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure, which could be the main reason why the World Economic Forum ranked the Philippines as number six in the Global Gender Gap index, making it the only Asian country in the top ten nations where women are given their rightful place and roles in society. This achievement also recognizes the legislative foundations for promoting gender equality, namely: Republic Act No. 9262, otherwise known as the Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004; Republic Act No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act; as well as, several pending measures on other issues concerning or affecting women. Moreover, the Supreme Court of the Philippines has undertaken unprecendented moves to ensure that women benefit equally and participate directly in the Judiciary’s structures, processes, and development programs, projects and activities. This proactive role of the Supreme Court has gained the plaudits of various women groups in particular, and the people in general.
Upon the other hand, the Philippines has to accelerate efforts to meet the off-track MDG targets on access to primary education, reduction in maternal mortality ratio, and access to reproductive health care. It has also to address disparities across areas, population groups and sectors.
On access to primary education, the Philippines has already laid the foundations for improvement through appropriate legislation, namely, Republic Act No. 9155, otherwise known as the Governance in Basic Education Act of 2001, through the Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda (BESRA) being implemented by the Department of Education and Culture. The school-building program continues to be one of the government’s major priorities. The government budget for education infrastructure is being augmented by ODA-assisted projects, the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), private-sector assistance, and even funding from Filipino communities overseas. The annual national budgets of the Philippines have consistently given highest budgetary priority to education in compliance with the mandate of the Constitution (Sec.5, Article XIV), under which the State is directed to establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels (Sec.2, Article XIV).
However, the Philippines is faced with the problem concerning the huge amount of resources needed to construct classrooms, improve and print textbooks, and to train and hire qualified teachers, which resulted in a backlog that can only be solved by further increasing resources and investment in this sector.
In addressing the targets under MDG 5 - improving maternal health - the Philippines has to surmount an even greater obstacle. The current Philippine figures for the Maternal Mortality Ratio and access to reproductive health services show that this MDG may be very difficult for the country to achieve by 2015. While government policies and programs are in place to solve this problem, an enormous amount of material resources are correspondingly needed to achieve the targets. Then, too, the need to change peoples’ attitudes and social health habits and practices must have to be reckoned with.
These challenges are made more difficult by the fact that, in 2006, the poverty situation of the country worsened as the number of poor Filipinos increased based on the latest poverty estimates released by the Philippines ’ National Statistical Coordination Board. The inability to meet the most basic needs are attributable to increasing prices, as well as to insufficient rise in personal income. External factors such as higher oil prices, enforcement of the expanded value added tax (EVAT) in November 2005, and imposition of higher VAT rate in February 2006 also added to the burden of the poor.
The Philippines ’ expenditures for social services as a percentage to total budget has been declining in the last few years. The spending for social services decreased from 24 percent in 2006 to 22 percent in 2007. With the decreasing trend in expenditures for social services, real capita spending on health, education, social security, welfare and employment and housing went down.
There is, therefore, a need to realign the national budget towards social services particularly on some off-track MDG targets. However, the external debt situation of the Philippines remains a major impediment to its efforts to reduce poverty.
The Philippines still needs to bridge the financing gap by putting in place policies and programs that will strengthen the economy and improve the capacity of the people to be self-reliant. Specifically, there is a need to mobilize domestic resources, improve employment opportunities, increase the foreign exchange earning capacity, and ensure equitable sharing of income and wealth.
The Philippines hereby reiterates, now in a louder voice and utmost seriousness, with a higher note of urgency, its call to the United Nations to consider the proposal for wider Debt-for-Equity arrangements to fund MDG-related programs and projects. It calls on the UN to spearhead an international campaign to change the concept of debt sustainability from “capacity to pay” to “level of debt” that allows developing countries, like the Philippines, to achieve the MDGs without increasing debt, and where financing the MDGs is not obstructed hampered by debt service burdens.
The Philippines respectfully urges the UN to make social inclusion as one of the guiding principles of the MDGs. The Millennium Declaration upholds the rights of children, women, migrants, migrant workers and their families. However, vulnerable sectors of the society such as Indigenous Peoples (IPs) and conflict- affected communities, and persons with disabilities have yet to be taken on board. Studies have shown that because of historical, political, cultural, economic and geo-physical factors, indigenous peoples and those in conflict-stricken areas have very low access to services and opportunities that could address their basic needs.
There is also a need to push for more opportunities for inclusive growth that ensures, to the maximum extent possible, that the opportunities thus created be made available to more people, particularly the poor, the vulnerable and the underprivileged, since growth is consistent with and supportive of the MDGs.
We also call on the UN Member-States to adopt a common tracking methodology to assess their performance vis-à-vis the MDG targets to help us compare how we are faring with our neighboring countries and the rest of the world, thereby learning lessons of best practices from good performing countries.
Finally, Mr. President, there is now more than a crying need for the reforms in the UN system, such as those on UN system-wide coherence, mandate review, and revitalization of the General Assembly, among others; as well as for the implementation of all UN responses to Climate Change. Needless to state, these reforms would certainly make the UN more effective and efficient in all its work, including, but not limited to, the pursuit of the MDGs and encouraging Member States to do more. As to Climate Change, we need not recount the enormity of its disastrous effects on development and security and on our work to achieve the MDGs for the plain and simple reason that responding to Climate Change itself will require the utilization of the funds and resources which could have directly channeled for poverty alleviation, reduction or management; education; health, etc., thereby effectively reducing the budgets for such purposes and delaying further the accomplishment of these programs in the MDGs.
Excellencies, reforms in the UN, innovative solutions, bold strategies, especially in relation to Climate Change, and collective efforts and actions are unavoidable and compelling to make MDGs a reality for all. T o achieve the MDGs, our commitment must be firm and unyielding, our pursuit must be relentless. There is no room for complacency. We should not rest, nor tire nor weaken.
Thank you Mr. President and distinguished colleagues.
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