"The candidates in the May elections should declare how they intend to meet our country's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)." This was the call made by representatives of over 100 citizens' organizations nation-wide in a national civil society consultation convened on 4th & 5th March by Social Watch Philippines (SWP) in coordination with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The MDGs are the 2015 goals and targets for achieving human development agreed upon by Heads of State at the Millennium Summit held in September 2000 in New York City.
Professor Leonor Briones, a convenor of Social Watch, pointed out the extreme difficulty of getting the resources to fund the MDGs in light of the government's fiscal management style. In her keynote speech, she revealed that in 2002, while the budget for debt service is P185.8 billion, actual cash disbursements on debt service expenditures reached a staggering P1.3 trillion based on the Commission on Audit's Annual Financial Report. "With a revenue collection of P601.8 billion in the same year, it is quite obvious that debts were paid with more borrowings!" she exclaimed.
While current trends predict that the MDG target of 50 per cent reduction in poverty incidence will be met by 2015, Rene Raya of Action for Economic Reforms said that there has been virtually no improvement in the rural poverty situation. Yes, poverty incidence may be decreasing nationally, he said, but it is increasing in ARMM, Central Mindanao and the Bicol region, and it is virtually stagnant in Western Mindanao. Warina Jukun from Muslim Mindanao also lamented that in terms of UNDP's Education Index, ARMM, Sulu and Basilan are even below that of Cambodia and Uganda and just approximating Lao and Congo. "These are the areas in the country with the highest dropout rates."
As for the target of reducing maternal mortality by three-fourths, "the Philippines will not meet the MDG target particularly for CAR, Cagayan Valley, Western Visayas and all of Mindanao," said Princess Nemenzo of Woman Health and the Freedom from Debt Coalition.
SWP's conference declaration read, "The imperative of meeting the MDGs in the national as well as in the local level should not only be driven by a covenant signed in New York but more importantly by the gross disparities on access to social services among the different regions and provinces and the danger of our falling below the target due to lack of resources. It is most urgent that anyone who seeks an electoral mandate not only knows the magnitude and nuances of the problem but already offers doable solutions and an integrated program of addressing them as well."
The eight Millennium Development Goals are the following:
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