Left behind

published 15 March 2013, MST, page A5
The Millennium Development Goals are eight time-bound goals agreed upon in 2000 by 189 United Nations member countries, including the Philippines, to meet across-the-board minimum development requirements by the year 2015.
The goals are: 1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger;  2. Achieve universal primary education; 3. Promote gender equality and empower women;  4. Reduce child mortality; 5. Improve maternal health;  6. Combat HIV/ AIDS, malaria and other diseases;  7. Ensure environmental sustainability; and 8. Develop global partnerships for environment.
Measurable targets for each goal were identified. Thus, despite the goals’ general and all encompassing tone, there were in fact empirical indicators that would signal governments that they are on track or not.
Soon after winning the elections in 2010, President Benigno Aquino III presented a report of the  progress of the Philippines in attaining these goals.  The document is available online through the Web site of the National Economic and Development Authority
According to the progress report, which the United Nations Development Programme here in the Philippines quoted on its own Web site, the likelihood for attainment is medium for goal 1, low for goal 2, high for both goals 3 and 4, low for both goals 5 and 6, medium for goal 7.
(There is no published likelihood for the eighth).
But a “shadow report” by Social Watch Philippines called “The Other MDG Report: Winning the Numbers, Losing the War” warned that the problem is “much more serious than what the government is prepared to admit.”  The numbers don’t seem to add up, said Social Watch. Social Watch lead convenor, former National Treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, said financing gap was the reason why poverty was worse in 2010 than when the MDGs were set by the community of nations. She called for an MDG-sensitive budget that would address the inequalities.
That was almost three years ago.  We have yet to find out what the new numbers are and whether the official and the alternative reports reflect any improvement on the country’s pursuit of these development goals.
It’s only two years before 2015, the reckoning period.
Indeed, some goals are more within reach than others. Efforts of individual governments and local government units must focus on the goals with low likelihood of attainment to make the progress even across various areas of development.
According to the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development, there are several sectors that have been left behind in the discussions on the attainment of the goals.  The PLCPD organized a forum to identify what these left-behind sectors are and to let representatives from these sectors raise their concerns.
The campaign period gives these sectors an opportunity to make their voices heard.  It is good to see that there is at least an effort to make the campaign, at least for the senatorial race, an issue-based rather than a personality-based one (even it does look bad from a political dynasty standpoint). There is greater clamor for candidates to go up the stage not to sing or dance but to join forums and debates that test their knowledge of a wide range of issues.
In their campaigns, too, the candidates claim to espouse this or that advocacy. Unfortunately, the impulse is to take on already popular issues.
The left-behind sectors identified are the small-scale farmers, small-scale fisherfolk, urban poor, out of school youth, female sex workers and males having sex with males.
All the sectoral representatives laid out their issues and the reasons they felt the government is neglecting their concerns.  For instance, Val Vibal of the Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura said that they were still struggling with lack of rights on the land they till, low productivity and lack of support from the government.
The fisherfolk, represented by Dennis Calvan, said that they wanted higher penalties for illegal fishing. Ka Pedring Fabrigon of the urban poor said that the move to transfer 104 thousand families living along waterways, for which the government has allotted a special fund of P50 billion to be spent over five years, still did not have any clear details.
Danilo Claro from the out-of-school youth sector said that while the government had the conditional cash transfer program to ensure that families continue sending their children to school, the manner of choosing beneficiaries does not seem clear to them.  Many of the truly poor are still not reached.
The staggering increase in the past few years of new cases of HIV and AIDS in the Philippines has made us one among only four countries where it has become an expanding epidemic. Will the passage of the reproductive health bill do something to arrest this? It remains to be seen.
Full interviews with the representatives will follow in the next few weeks.