By Anna Valmero
QUEZON CITY, METRO MANILA— Various public and non-government sectors should take a local approach towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that aim to alleviate poverty in the country.
As a signatory of the United Nations (UN) Millennium Declaration, the Philippines commits to reduce poverty by achieving the eight MDGs by 2015.
“Despite significant and steady progress on most targets, fast-tracking the MDGs requires a local approach. Much has to be done with regard to the attainment of the MDGs at the local level,” said Dr. Jacqueline Badcock, UN resident coordinator in the Philippines.
“When planning, budgeting and implementing or monitoring the programs that directly impact the achievement of the goals, local government needs to learn from each other and from citizens who are living in extreme poverty,” Badcock said during the National Policy Forum on MDG Localization in the Philippines.
Based on national reports, the UN official said significant progress has been made in reducing child mortality and the incidence of malaria and tuberculosis, increasing access to sanitation and safe, potable water, and providing equal education opportunities for females.
“Looking past these numbers, however, the aggregate economic growth does not reflect social injustices,” she said.
The poverty index went down from 45.3 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2009, but the actual number of poor Filipinos increased from 28.1 million in 1991 to 30 million in 2010.
In the 2010 MDG Shadow Report, entitled “Winning the Numbers, Losing the War”, Social Watch Philippines identified governance as one of the challenges in achieving the MDGs along with financing, climate change, and lingering economic crisis.
“National statistics on the MDGs do not reveal realities at the community level where ending poverty and socioeconomic injustices are far from being realized,” the group said in its report.
Manuel Gotis, director of the Bureau of Local Government Development under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), added that achievement of the MDGs in 2015 is “far from reality”.
Most of the cities, first- and second-class municipalities have enough budget to finance the achievement of MDGs in their local communities but for low-income fourth, fifth and sixth class municipalities, it would be very difficult, Gotis said.
“Most of the low-income municipalities allocate up to 65 percent of their budget for personal income or salary of the local government staff, while the remaining 35 percent is allocated for development projects— the exact opposite of the allocation in higher income municipalities,” Gotis said.
Given this scenario, Gotis said “after 2015, I am sure we will not attain the MDGs and we have to figure out what to do next.”
He noted that monitoring poverty indicators at the household level is key to generate poverty maps that could be used to address 13 poverty indicators and prompt local government units to address them.
In 2010, high poverty and inequality incidence in the country is similar as when the country started in the MDGs, meaning we are not getting better, said Isagani Serrano, president of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement
For example, Siayan town in Zamboanga del Norte has a record high poverty incidence of 97.46 percent or almost all in the community are poor, said Serrano.
The conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, which is an important government tool to alleviate the poverty and inequality incidence among the poor, should also be used to map the poverty incidence at the household level.
Ideally, access to resources should be given to 40 percent of the most vulnerable group to optimize the achievement of MDGs, said Dr. Alex Brillantes Jr., professor of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance.
Brillantes urged the academe to take part in the achievement of MDGs and enjoin communities to participate at the local level planning such that academic research are coordinated to local government units, paving the way for coordinated partnership among stakeholders.
He said the non-profit group Gawad Kalinga is a good emerging mode of development, converging point for partnership and template for good governance.
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