No progress has been made by the Philippines in achieving the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set by the United Nations since 2007, a high-ranking UN official said on Wednesday.
Renaud Meyer, the United Nations Development Program country director for the Philippines, was referring to the eight MDGs namely: to halve extreme poverty and hunger, to achieve universal primary education, to promote gender equality and empower women, to reduce child mortality, to improve maternal health, to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases, to ensure environmental sustainability and to develop a global partnership for development.
The 189 government leaders of UN member-countries agreed to achieve the goals by 2015. Meyer revealed that the Philippines has stagnated in coming up with measures in addressing poverty, ensuring gender equality and reducing maternal mortality rate.
The country, though, made significant strides in improving sanitation, providing dietary energy requirements, reducing child mortality, combating malaria and facilitating access to safe drinking water and toilet.
“The Philippines was on track [in achieving the MDG goals] until 2007, when the global economic crisis, rise in food and fuel prices and governance issues came into play,” Meyer said in his lecture during the 1st Asia Pacific University Student Leaders Conference held at the Makati Palace Hotel on Wednesday.
The conference gathered 125 student leaders from the Philippines, Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Singapore, Canada, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and Madagascar.
The crisis, costly food and fuel and governance matters, according to Meyer, resulted in the rise of poverty incidence to 33 percent, compared with the 30 percent in 2007, and the exponential rise of HIV cases in the country. This year, the Philippines is registering four new HIV/AIDS cases a day.
Meyer blamed corruption and the absence of the reproductive health bill for such stagnation.
“At least 20 percent of the Philippines’ national total budget is going to the wrong hands. Not surprisingly, the budget for education has not changed in the last 30 years, so schools are forced to do more with less, hence the high dropout rates,” he pointed out.
He urged the government to pass the reproductive health bill, which he said seeks to promote respect for life, informed choice, birth spacing and responsible parenthood in accordance with internationally recognized human rights standards thru guaranteeing universal access to medically safe, legal and quality reproductive health-care services and relevant information on use of condoms.
Meyer expressed displeasure that a great percentage of the half a million abortion cases in the Philippines annually (with majority of them involving young women ages 15 to 24) are unwanted abortions since the mothers are not receiving enough medical attention because of lack of reproductive health services.
“Let’s face it. There has been a study that if the Philippine population continues to grow at this rate, it won’t have enough resources to feed its people by 2025. Overpopulation affects Manila’s bid in attaining the MDGs because it constraints the resources for the people. The more children a couple have, the fewer children will be sent to school,” he said.
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, highly influential because 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic, has repeatedly argued against the reproductive health bill and distribution of condoms, which it said promotes promiscuity.
“This has nothing to do with spirituality, with religion. This is a health, or even a survival issue,” Meyer said.
He noted that while the Philippines always took pride in having a good migration policy to make sure that it is deploying skillful and quality overseas Filipino workers and that they will be safe working in the lands, the $18-billion worth of remittances from the OFWs are not being spent well.
“This is a missed opportunity, even if they just allot 0.01 percent of [the OFW remittances] to provide for barangay [village] health centers, or classroom improvements in a village, it would already make a difference. But of course, it would take a lot of political commitment to do that,” Meyer said. –LLANESCA T. PANTI Reporter, Manila Times