MANILA, Philippines – It’s been 10 years since member-states of the United Nations (UN), including the Philippines, pledged to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of 8 targets anchored on eradicating poverty.
Data gathered by the UN showed, however, that 2 goals are least likely to be met by the Philippines -- primary education for all and improved access to maternal health.
This as poverty incidence continues to rise, together with the country’s population. In 2006, 33% of Filipinos were below the poverty line, up from 30% in 2003.
With only 5 years left to 2015, the Philippines scrambles to meet the minimum targets.
“We should already be at the tail-end of achieving our goals, but that’s not the case. The biggest challenge here now is reducing poverty by 50%,” said Jacqueline Badcock, resident coordinator of the UN.
All hope is not lost, however. If the Philippines plays its cards right, Badcock said the country can still reach the MDGs on time.
The government should not be tasked to do all the work, she said. Citing the spirit of bayanihan (communal unity), Badcock encouraged all Filipinos to do their part as government watchdogs and MDG advocates.
“In the spirit of bayanihan, let’s stand up and take action. Let’s make poverty history,” she said.
Make MDGs personal
For Leonor Magtolis-Briones, lead convenor of Social Watch Philippines, knowing the real situation of the people is vital in achieving – or even going beyond – the MDGs by 2015.
This, she said, can be done by breaking down statistics and looking at the poverty situation in a closer, more personal level.
Briones noted that while only 33% of Filipinos are living in poverty according to government data, almost all people living in certain areas in Mindanao are poor.
“There are still many places in the Philippines that can’t be reached by the usual modes of transport. Some don’t even have a notion of government, the MDGs, or even the national budget. We should let them know that they’re taxpayers, that they have a stake in our country,” she said.
She continued, “We should go beyond national figures and see the real face of poverty. We need the help of the media, the cooperation of local government officials, everyone. We shouldn’t lose hope.”
By “localizing” the MDGs, Briones said people can be more engaged in achieving these targets and steering the country toward progress.
“MDGs are not for showing off to the UN. It’s not just for display. This is for us, for the Filipino people.”
Taking it to the ‘streets’
For Jaime Garchitorena, founding member of youth group Young Public Servants, MDGs are nothing more than the Mga Dapat Gawin, or things that need to be done.
"MDGs are the basic goods and services that must be delivered by the government, that's why they got elected to office," he said.
Unfortunately, however, Garchitorena noted that most people don't know what the MDGs are. So he made an effort to make it relevant to them -- through a website.
He put up the MyStreet Portal where state agencies, non-government organizations and ordinary individuals can interact, compare data about different MDGs, and find ways to help curb poverty in the country.
Topics covered in MyStreet, which is set to be launched next month, include education, health, infrastructure, environment, poverty, recreation and crime, among others.
“There’s no comprehensive database right now about the MDGs, so people don’t know about them. People want to participate, but they don’t know how,” Garchitorena observed.
He continued, “MyStreet generates and verifies visible data that people can always go back to. It encourages participation in a local scale.”
P.Noy’s battle plan
Corazon “Dinky” Soliman, secretary of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said that the Aquino administration recognizes the limits of national statistics, as noted by Briones.
“There’s still a lot to do,” she said.
Despite the many problems inherited from the previous administration, Soliman assured that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and his team did not come to battle unprepared.
For one, she said government projects will be converged with similar initiatives from non-government organizations and the private sector to improve efficiency and to ensure that all depressed areas in the country will be covered.
“There’s a gushing of funds going to the pockets of certain individuals and groups of people,” she said.
Key areas of work, such as job generation, provision of incentives for good governance and social protection, will also be addressed with the help of other government agencies such as the agriculture and trade departments.
Briones particularly stressed the need to create more jobs and invite more investments to the country, which, she said, will help sustain government subsidies such as conditional cash transfers (CCT).
“CCT and other programs will not make poor people stay out of poverty without a sustainable livelihood. Subsidies should only be tools to empower them to enter into economic activities,” she said.