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Winning the Numbers, Losing the War
The Other MDG Report 2010

“The Philippines is in a worse poverty situation in 2010 than when it started on the MDGs in 2000. We are losing the war on poverty. Many would still be left behind, and their numbers are simply staggering by any count,” said Isagani Serrano, SWP convenor and editor of the citizens’ report on the MDGs.

“This report titled ‘Winning the Numbers, Losing the War: The Other MDG Report 2010’ intends to feed into the annual planning and budgeting processes and the new regime’s six-year blueprint,” Serrano explained. “Our hope is to see a Medium-Term Development Plan (MTPDP) and local development plans that are truly MDG-sensitive and committed to deliver on the minimalist MDG promises. From the MDG perspective, the MTPDP failed on its promise to reduce the poverty incidence of families by 20 percent come 2010,” he added.

President Noynoy Aquino is set to present the Fourth Philippines’ Progress Report on the MDGs to over a hundred heads of State in New York this September. The MDGs is the set of measurable targets which heads of state promised to fulfil by 2015 in order to eradicate poverty and hunger, reduce inequality and promote human rights.

Serrano said that, in sharp contrast to the Philippines Fourth Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals 2010, the shadow report warns that the problem is much more serious than what the government is prepared to admit.

“The official report was impressive in its goal-by-goal trends and inequality analysis and in suggesting possible solutions. But we are still left wondering why numbers don’t seem to add up and reflect the deterioration of the national situation,” Serrano said.

“Many of the quantitative indicators on key goals such as education, maternal and infant mortality and poverty eradication are still between low and medium probability of achievement when they should all be on the high side going into the last five years,” he added.

Former national treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, SWP lead convenor, said that it is obvious that the financing gap on the MDGs is a major reason on why the poverty situation is worse in 2010 than when the country started on the MDGs in 2000. “When the MDGs were adapted by the international community in 2000, Social Watch Philippines immediately called for estimates of the costs of the MDGs. Even at that time, it was clear that financial resources as allocated in the budget were inadequate,” she said.

“An MDG-sensitive budget will correct the inequalities highlighted in the Shadow report. A budget to provide education, health, decent work, food security for all — not just for a half or for two-thirds of the poor – will ensure that no Filipino is left behind,” Briones said.

Serrano added that the shadow report also digs into the less obvious reasons of not attaining the minimalist set of goals despite MDG-oriented policy declarations and national development plans.

Marivic Raquiza, SWP convenor and lead writer on poverty (MDG 1), pointed out that, in the first place, the country has a very low poverty threshold of P41 per person per day, which is not enough to cover the food, medical, education, transportation and rental expenses of any person. “The poor can be found not just below, but also above the poverty line because of the unrealistically low poverty threshold,” Raquiza said.

Meanwhile, Rene Raya of E-Net Philippines said that while the government report admitted the poor performance and failings of the education sector, the analysis and arguments presented appear to be restrained. “Stagnation and reversals in education since 2000 left the marginalized further behind, thus, exacerbating inequality even more.

We need mechanisms to effectively reach out to the ‘unreached’, particularly the non-literates, the out-of-school, indigenous people and Muslim children, and other socially excluded sectors,” said Raya.

Raya said that the country has long been under investing in education with a total education expenditure level that consistently declined from 3.5% of GDP in 2000 to only 2.4% of GDP in 2004. In 2010, share of national government in education spending went down to 0.7 percent compared to 2009. “The Philippines should meet the international benchmark of 6 percent of GDP as public expenditure for education,” Raya said.

Meanwhile, the shadow report writers on health laud the President’s promises of universal health care within three years’ time and to reform of the health insurance system to achieve universal coverage.

“The Philippines is one of 68 countries where 97 percent of all neonatal, child and maternal deaths worldwide occurs. Ensuring equity could prevent 40 percent of all child deaths, which occur largely among poor children,” said May-I Fabros, lead writer on infant mortality.

Mercy Fabros of WomanHealth Philippines and lead writer on maternal health said that even though technical solutions to most of the problems associated with mortality and morbidity in pregnancy and childbirth are well-known, the Philippines is one of 55 countries that accounts for 94 percent of all maternal deaths in the world.

“Our public spending on health is low. In 2007, the Philippines spent 6.8 percent of government expenditures on health compared with the average of 9.9 percent of government expenditures for the East Asia Region,” Fabros said. “To achieve universal health care, we should shift the relative weight of public spending from tertiary services that cater to the affluent to basic services and public health that benefit the poor,” she added.

Meanwhile, Edel Hernandez of the Medical Action Group (MAG) said that progress in HIV/AIDs, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria is very problematic. The Philippines ranks ninth on the list of 22 high-burden TB countries in the world, according to the WHO’s Global TB Report 2009. “Total prevention and cure are still far on the horizon,” she said.

Hernandez said that the limited or the diminishing resources allocated by the government and other stakeholders could hamper the implementation of necessary programs to fully achieve the goal. The shadow report on infectious diseases revealed a total gap of about P178.8 million per year is still required to finance TB control; and a projected 11- year P15 billion financing gap for malaria.

Meanwhile, writers on environmental sustainability said that the current MTPDP is the most glaring policy inconsistency with regard to ensuring environmental sustainability.

“It prescribes a business as usual attitude in environment and natural resources management. It is clearly uninformed of the realities and challenges of climate change,” said Jonathan Ronquillo of the La Liga Policy Institute.

The writers reported that mining took up 67% of the budget of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), while funding allocations for protected areas, biodiversity conservation, reforestation and implementation of environmental laws such as the Clean Air Act, Solid Waste Management Act are either erratic, low or completely without allocations. Moreover, in 2009, a total of P1.1 billion budget for programs to conserve, revive and protect the environment were impounded by the Office of the President.

Jessica Cantos, convenor of Rice Watch Action Network and lead writer on global partnerships for development, said that trade, debt and aid have all worked to exacerbate rather than alleviate poverty and unemployment in the Philippines.

“Despite excessive liberalization policies, the Philippine government has not proven that trade could be free and fair to the country, especially the poor. Since 2000, the nation has been saddled with debts, both legitimate and questionable, the size of which surpassed the combined borrowings of the three preceding regimes,” she said.

Cantos called for debt relief to countries where government revenues cannot meet MDG financing needs. “It is time to do away with the traditional debt ratios that create an illusion that a country has the capacity to service its debt and at the same time develop,” Cantos said.

The Shadow Report also featured the report by people in Mindanao, particularly the Bangsa Moro. “Eighty (80) percent of the 20 poorest municipalities in 2003 were in Mindanao. The government report attributed this situation to the conflicts and peace and order problem. What is not said is that several of these poorest regions, provinces and towns are also host to large plantations and mining enclaves,” Serrano said.

“We presented data from independent and previous studies which point out that poverty in Mindanao is higher when compared to the national level,” said Jolly Lais of Assalam. ”Approximately 40% of the AFP annual budget spent on war in Mindanao in 1970-1996 could have built thousands of farm to market, roads, classrooms, clinics, irrigation systems and other socio-economic infrastructure,” he added.

Serrano said that what is needed is for the budget to support an MDG catch up plan that focus on where the country is lagging behind—poverty, education and maternal health. “The national budgets beginning 2011 until 2015 must be MDG-dedicated. The General Appropriations Acts (GAAs) to be enacted for those years should be pre-audited for their MDG-sensitivity,” Serrano said.

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