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Speech on the Millennium Development Goals

September 19, 2010

1. The MDG Summit 2010
Today, the 20th of September, heeding the urgent call of the United Nations Secretary-General, world leaders convene an important summit in New York to review the progress of countries on the collective commitment of nations for human development under the Millennium Declaration of 2000 – that is, the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the year 2015.
The MDGs represent human needs and basic rights that every individual around the world should be able to enjoy — freedom from extreme poverty and hunger; right to quality education, right to productive and decent employment, right to good health and shelter; the right of women to give birth without risking their lives; and a world where environmental sustainability is a priority and where women and men live in equality. To achieve these universal objectives, the MDGs require a wide-ranging global partnership for development.
With only five years left until the 2015 deadline to achieve the MDGs, we ask ourselves, as responsible leaders of our land and as elected representatives of our people:
– How far have we gone as a nation in realizing the aspirations of the MDGs?
– Are we making headway or are we failing in our development strategies and interventions?
– Are we steadfast in our commitment? Or are we reneging on our promise to the Filipino people, especially the poor and the underprivileged?
Globally, as the United Nations Secretary-General has initially reported, improvements in the lives of the poor have been unacceptably slow, and some hard-won gains are being eroded by crises related to climate, food and the economy.
As world leaders focus their attention to the successes and gaps and the course of future action, we as legislators have the moral responsibility to oversee government action and national progress and investments towards achieving the MDGs.
Goal 1: Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger
The target when it comes to poverty and hunger is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people earning less than the poverty threshold and those that suffer from hunger. With the rising food and fuel prices, slow income growth, the recent global financial crisis, our El Nino experience, and unprecedented damage caused by calamities such as Ondoy and Pepeng, how are we going to win the war on poverty and hunger?
Goal 2: Education
In education, the target is to ensure that, by 2015, boys and girls alike will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling. However, from 90.1 percent in school year 2001-2002, the participation rate or Net Enrollment Rate (NER) in elementary education declined to 83.2 percent in SY 2006-2007, the lowest over the last two decades. Although the downward pattern started to reverse by schoolyear 2007-2008 at 84.8 percent, the rate of progress is very minimal and would not be enough to achieve the 100 percent target NER by 2015. Do we have the capability to create a big turnaround in five years?[2]
Goal 3: Promotion of Gender Equality and Empowering Women
The country’s target as to gender equality is to eliminate gender disparity in all levels of education by 2015. The Report reveals that the gender gap appears to be in favor of girls as far as participation in basic education is concerned. There is a high probability of reaching this goal by 2015, but still we must ask the question: how do we address the underlying factors that contribute to lower participation and completion rates among boys in the school system?
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
The country’s target pertaining to child mortality is to reduce by two-thirds, by 2015, the mortality rate for children under five years old. Although the country has been successful in significantly reducing child mortality from 57 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 25 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2008, how do we ensure that these achievements are not threatened by factors such as the spreading of disease and increasing frequency of calamities?
Goal 5: Improving Maternal Health and Access to Reproductive Health Services
Our goal with regard to maternal health is to reduce by three-fourths, by 2015, the maternal mortality ratio. Based on the estimates of the National Statistics and Coordination Board and the Family Planning Survey, our maternal mortality ratio had been consistently decreasing from 209 per 100,000 live births in 1990 to 162 per 100,000 live births in 2006. Simple math would show that is far from the goal of reduction by 75%.[3]
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
Climate change threatens economic growth.
Data from the Department of Health reveal that at present, an average of about five new HIV cases per day or one every five hours are reported in the Philippines as compared to the rate of two new cases per day in 2009, and one new case per day in 2007. This trend shows that HIV is rapidly expanding in the country.[5]
We have gained ground with regard to our goal of reversing the spread of malaria and other major diseases, with the malaria morbidity and mortality rates declining from 123 cases and 1.5 deaths per 100,000 population to 22 cases and 0.02 deaths, respectively. However, we see the current phenomenon of the rise in climate-related diseases such as malaria, dengue and cholera. What are the concrete actions that government should do to protect our people from the increasing risk of these diseases?
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Our target is to halve, by 2015, the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. However, the achievement of this goal is continually threatened by the unabated degradation of our environment and the effects of climate change. Has the government factored-in disaster-risk reduction, the prevention of desertification and increasing drought resilience in securing water sources in the country?
Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development
By 2015, we aim to develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, nondiscriminatory trading and financial system, and be able to deal comprehensively with our debt problems in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.
Yet the Philippines has consistently slipped in terms of global competitiveness, from rank 71 in 2008 to 87 in 2009. The Report cites several problems that hinder us in attracting foreign investors, impediments which we have known for some time: corruption; inefficient government bureaucracy; inadequate supply of infrastructure especially in strategic industrial areas; and policy instability. Our debt has ballooned from PhP701 billion PhP4.4 trillion only in the past 20 years, accounting for more than 50 percent of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Mr. President, I ask: How do we wield our influence as national legislators in the development of policy that will promote a friendly investment climate, increase revenue collection and demand greater accountability from public officials?
We need to build on our progress and sustain what we have achieved so far. We need to bridge the gaps by long consistent strides even as we count the precious minutes ticking by, before it is too late. We must labor to deliver to the Filipino people the benefits of development that they have long been waiting for.
As such, I have filed Resolution No. 198 to undertake a comprehensive of review of the progress made by the Philippines in order to determine not only what the country has accomplished and achieved with respect to the MDGs, but also what remains to be done and implemented, benefiting from the efforts, experiences, and best practices of countries worldwide, particularly in the ASEAN region. We need to know what challenges we must overcome to realize these goals. This inquiry will bring key government agencies together so that we can chart the country’s course of accelerated action for the next five (5) years.
Mr. President, our leaders and decision makers must also realize that there is a strong correlation between the achievement of the MDGs and reducing disaster risk. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary General, himself stated that, “Reducing disaster risk and increasing resilience to natural hazards in different development sectors can have multiplier effects and accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”
Disaster risk reduction pays. We have country experiences to prove this. China spent US$3.15 billion on flood control between 1960 and 2000, which is estimated to have averted losses of about US$12 billion. A mangrove-planting project in Vietnam aimed at protecting coastal populations from typhoons and storms yielded an estimated benefit/cost ratio of 52 over the period 1994 to 2001. In 2007, Cyclone Sidr in Bangladesh killed 3,400, in contrast to a similar cyclone in 1991 that killed 138,000 people, and in 1970, as many as 300,000 people. The huge decrease in casualties is attributed in most part to 42,000 volunteers (called megaphones on bicycles) who helped evacuate millions of residents before the cyclones struck land.
The impact of Ondoy and Pepeng a year ago reminds our government leaders that disaster risk reduction is no longer an option and it cannot be delayed.
With each disaster, our people are pushed deeper into poverty as they lose almost everything that make up their lives’ possessions. With each disaster, homes and critical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools and bridges are destroyed. With each storm or drought, our poor farmers lose all the fruits of their hard work, the basis of their very subsistence.
With each disaster, money from the government coffers, if at all available, is diverted to relief, reconstruction and rehabilitation. If the government coffers turn out empty, we resort to foreign loans that must be repaid with interest.
For the developing world, where about 85% of the population is exposed to earthquakes, cyclones, floods and drought, the MDG initiatives are of central importance. The direct damage costs of disasters alone have shot up by around 13 times, from US$ 75.5 billion in the 1960s to roughly a trillion dollars in the past decade. Asia – very prone to the impact of earthquakes, floods, landslides, storms and drought – bears a large share of the total number of people killed by disasters, ranging from 74% to 85% of the total fatalities in recent years. Among the most deadly disasters that occur each year, at least five (5) occurred in Asia.
We, as legislators, must watch over our country’s progress and investments made towards MDGs, goal by goal, with disaster risk reduction as a crucial tool. Through our influence in spending, laws and policy, we can create an enabling environment for achieving disaster-resilient development. This means that as we build new health centers and retro-fit old dilapidated ones, we ensure that these facilities can withstand natural hazards so they can keep functioning in times of disasters. This means that we protect the livelihoods of poor communities and support alternative income-generating activities to give them more disaster-resilient income. This means that we stamp out corruption in construction and make schools safer from disaster.
Mr. President,

The significant steps that we have taken in the previous Congress is a testament that we, legislators, have a fundamental role in charting the path towards disaster-resilient development. Let us use this opportunity to chart the same progress towards achieving the MDGs. The road promises to be filled with stumbling blocks. But instead of slowing us down, these challenges should bring about consensus — an agreement that our country should double, even triple, its efforts to reach our targets. We, parliamentarians have the power and the duty to lead the way.
[1] Absolute progress measures which countries have achieved their MDGs, taking into consideration the population of their country. Relative progress, on the other hand, measures over-all development against the MDG target, not taking into consideration its distribution over the country’s population.
[2] Philippine Progress Report 2010
[3] Philippine Progress Report 2010
[4] Philippine Progress Report 2010
[5] Philippine Progress Report 2010