Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Groups seek dialogue with Aquino on medium-term economic goals

Groups seek dialogue with Aquino on medium-term economic goals
By Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
September 14, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—Instead of "mere token consultations," civil society groups have asked the Aquino administration to involve them in a "genuine dialogue" as it drafts the government's next economic blueprint, the Medium-Term Development Plan for 2011-2016.

The process "should be opened for people's participation," asserted Freedom from Debt Coalition secretary general Milo Tanchuling.

At the same time, Tanchuling asked the National Economic and Development Agency (NEDA) to "live up to the administration's promise of becoming a government that listens and consults its citizens, beginning with the crafting of its medium-term plan."

Along with the Caucus of Development NGO Networks (CODE-NGO) and the United Nations Civil Society Advisory Council (UN-CSAC), the FDC made public on Tuesday what they called the "Citizens' Roadmap for Change" with the aim to reduce poverty and meet the country's Millennium Development Goals or MDGs.

"The roadmap was crafted with the participation of more than 100 civil society representatives from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao," said CODE-NGO, FDC, and UN-CSAC in a statement.

During simple rites in a Pasig City hotel, leaders of the civil society groups presented the roadmap to Social Welfare Secretary Corazon "Dinky" Soliman, who represented President Aquino in the event, and NEDA Assistant Director Cleofe Pastrana.

Both Soliman and Pastrana committed to include citizens' participation in the crafting of the next Medium-Term Development Plan.

The MDGs are eight specific and time-bound goals that heads of governments from 189 worldwide committed to achieve by 2015.

These goals are ending poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, fighting HIV-AIDS, malaria and other killer diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing a global partnership for development.

CODE-NGO executive director Sixto Donato Macasaet said, "With only five years left to the 2015 deadline, there is an urgent need to fast-track the achievement of our MDGs."

"President Aquino cannot have as a legacy the failure to attain these goals," said Macasaet as he also noted the country has been lagging behind in some of its MDG targets.

In their "Roadmap for Change," civil society groups highlighted the non-government sector's key policy recommendations:

* Repeal of Section 31-B of Presidential Decree 1177 and Section 26-B of the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 which call for automatic appropriations for debt service.

* Automatic appropriations for education, health, and housing, equivalent to 6 percent, 5 percent and 5 percent of GNP, respectively.

* Promoting the use of "mother tongue-based education" and the setting-up of a pre-school system in all public and private schools nationwide by school year 2015-2016.

* On the macro-economy, the inclusion of equality targets on top of growth targets to guide an asset reform program and a rational population policy.

* Mandating all government agencies to be transparent in their operations, including the procurement and bidding processes.

* Increased PhilHealth coverage for the poor and encourage the "return migration" of health professionals.

* Honest-to-goodness implementation of the laws on agrarian reform, urban land reform, fisheries reform, and ancestral domain.

Civil society groups also recommended the following measures: enactment of the controversial reproductive health bill; full implementation of the Magna Carta for Women; provision of National Food Authority rice subsidies to poor farmers; strict enforcement of environmental laws; declaring a moratorium on large-scale mining; adding two more years to the public education system; effective implementation of the cheap medicines law; and enactment of a law on the setting up of a national peace policy.

During an earlier tri-sectoral conference, CODE-NGO, FDC, and UN-CSAC presented their proposals to top officials of the departments of budget, labor and employment, agrarian reform, and environment and natural resources.

CODE-NGO groups, among others, the Association of Foundations, Philippine Business for Social Progress, Mindanao Coalition of Development NGO Networks, National Confederation of Cooperatives, Central Visayas Network of NGOs and POs, Coalition for Bicol Development, and the Cordillera Network of Development NGOs and POs.