On SONA: Put MDGs back on track

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today urged President Benigno Aquino III to find ways to put the country’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) back in order as the new President delivers his very first State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday.

“The task of completing our country’s MDGs by the 2015 deadline lies on Pres. Aquino, who now has to work double-time to meet several targets that were side-tracked under his predecessor,” Cayetano said, referring to the country’s lagging performance on poverty reduction, achieving basic universal education, and improving child and maternal health.

The MDGs are a set of eight time-bound, concrete and specific targets aimed at eradicating extreme poverty and hunger which 189 members of the United Nations, including the Philippines, affirmed in year 2000 and committed to attain by 2015.

“P-Noy will be the ‘MDG President’ in the sense that the international community’s finalevaluation on whether the Philippines had done enough to meet its development targets will happen under his watch. Aquino’s policy directions in the next six years, which he’ll lay down in his first SONA, would have a crucial impact as we enter the homestretch on the MDGs.”

She said the government would be hard-pressed to accomplish MDG No.1, which is to halve the proportion of people living on less than one dollar (P50) a day by 2015. Latest official data pegged the poverty threshold at 32.9 percent of the population in 2006, which is still way off the target of 22.7 percent by 2015. A related indicator is reduction in the prevalence of underweight children under five years old to 17.3 percent in 2015, which is still far off the official data of 26.2 percent as of 2008.

The government is still off-track in achieving universal (100 percent) primary education by 2015 which is under MDG No.2. As of 2008, net enrolment ratio in basic education stood at a low 85.1 percent, while primary completion rate was at 73.3 percent. Similarly, the proportion of pupils starting from grade 1 who reached grade 6 stood at only 75.3 percent when the goal is to bring the rate to 100 percent by 2015.

Pres. Aquino would also have to drastically reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rate from 62 percent in 2006 to 52.3 percent by 2015. At the center of this issue is the President’s stand on the proposed Reproductive Health (RH) Bill which is being pushed by women’s health advocates while being opposed by the Catholic Church.

“Aside from struggling with limited government finances, the new government would also have to strike a balance between conflicting interests if we are to make any significant progress as we approach the deadline for the MDGs,” she concluded.

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