MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives has no plans to replace Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos as chairman of a special congressional committee on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
In an interview, House Speaker Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte said he sees no problem with Marcos's designation as head of the House MDG committee despite the slew of ill-gotten wealth cases against her.
"She has enough experience and a lot of good heads who want to help her in so far as that role is concerned in 1 of the special committees. We’re all behind her success," he said.
As chair of the MDG special committee, Marcos could be part of the official delegation of President Benigno Aquino III for a United Nations summit on the MDGs this month.
The group Social Watch Philippines, meanwhile, turned over to the leaders of Congress its study on the country’s compliance with the MDGs.
The goals include reducing extreme poverty, reducing child mortality rates, fighting disease epidemics such as AIDS, and developing a global partnership for development.
One of Social Watch's recommendations is the recovery of the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth as a means to achieve the MDGs by 2015.
House, Senate pledge more funds for MDGs
Leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives have pledged more funds for the government's campaign to achieve the MDGs.
During the ceremonial handover of the Citizens’ Report on the MDGs, Belmonte and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said Congress will work with citizens’ groups in increasing the allocations for programs on MDGs.
“The shadow report '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,” said Isagani Serrano, convenor of Social Watch Philippines.
“Our hope is to see an MTPDP [Medium Term Philippine Development Plan] and local development plans that are truly MDG-sensitive and committed to deliver on the minimalist MDG promises,” he added.
President Aquino is set to present the Fourth Philippine Progress Report on the MDGs to over a hundred heads of states in New York this September.
“The Citizens' Report on the MDGs is a brutally frank assessment of government efforts and failures on its commitment to the MDGs. I call on all government agencies involved in the implementation of programs to work closely with those who wrote the Citizens' MDG Report 2010,” said Senator Enrile.
“We are racing against time; millions of lives must be protected. We need to put our acts together and save as many Filipino lives as we can,” he added.
Financing gap is worse
Former National Treasurer Leonor Magtolis Briones, Social Watch Philippines lead convenor, said it is obvious that the financing gap on the MDGs is a major reason why the poverty situation is worse in 2010 than when the country started the MDGs in 2000.
“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.
"Government has to invest more on programs related to MDGs. We need to honestly evaluate our policies and address the issues and massive level of corruption, especially in the poorest regions of the land,” Enrile said.
“The lawmakers of this country have long recognized that investments in education, health care, disease control, and environment conservation are long term strategies for development in this country. To end poverty, the best thing to do is to put in place a system of taxation from the rich and spend it to increase the income of the poor,” he added.
MDG catch-up plan
Meanwhile, Belmonte called for reallocation of funds where it is mostly needed to achieve the poverty alleviation goals.
“The Citizens’ MDG Report helps people realize that the budget for education and health barely improved and do not match with population growth and the need for catch-up plan and budget for the MDGs, especially in Mindanao,” Belmonte said.
Serrano said that what is needed is for the budget to support an MDG catch-up plan that focuses on where the country is lagging behind—poverty, education and maternal health. “The national budgets beginning 2011 until 2015 must be MDG-dedicated," he said.
"The General Appropriations Acts (GAAs) to be enacted for those years should be pre-audited for their MDG-sensitivity,” Serrano said.
Belmonte said that the House of Representative will help civil society groups move the government and the people to exert more effort especially on financing the MDGs.
“The House will continue to put the necessary pressure to achieve more effort on the MDGs. The House of Representatives would like to thank the citizens’ groups who wrote the Citizens’ MDG Report for having monitored the country’s progress for the last ten years,” he said.
The Senate President also said that the Senate shall continue to pass laws on the attainment of the MDGs and shall continue to scrutinize the agencies’ programs on the goals. “I myself will study the assessment and recommendations from the Citizens’ MDG Report,” said Enrile.