Social Watch has made its statement on how the Philippines could end poverty and achieve sustainable development through its Spotlight Report three years ago. The report wanted to change everything—from a proposed vision of prosperity without growth, to changing the strategy and indicators.
Many good things are happening within society as a whole. But there is really need to engage government more not only to make a “whole government approach” but a “whole of society approach” to work towards bringing us closer to our dream of fairness in a fragile world.
The 2019 Philippine Spotlight Report on how we are faring on our commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is, as it has always been, a product of several consultations that were actively participated in by traditional and new participants in the civil society groups’ discourse on the then MDGs (Millennium Development Goals), now SDGs.
Education. Equitable access to quality, historically and culturally appropriate education remains a challenge. Alternative Learning Systems has provided some venue for out of school youth among others to access to basic education but a lot still needs to be done in terms of data generation and disaggregation to somehow tailor-fit the kind of intervention especially for the vulnerable and marginalized groups in this crucial human development input to carry on the rest of the SDGs. The free tertiary education in state owned colleges and institutions needs to be refined as initial data shows that only 12% of its enrollees come from poor families. Resources allocated to education is still below the ideal 6 percent to GDP level.
Decent work and economic growth. While formal sector work is expanding, so has precarious work among those formally employed which means that available jobs were mostly contractual wherein there is uncertainty and lack of benefits for workers or the quality of employment did not increase with it. Significant increase in public investment in all sectors—agriculture, manufacturing and services should be prioritized and to transition workers from informal to formal, from vulnerable to stable, and from precarious to regular across all three sectors. Promoting social enterprises can be a way to ensure that the ‘fruits’ of labor productivity growth is equitably shared between capitalists and workers.
Reduced inequalities. The Philippines is experiencing a development paradox wherein there is an increasing number of millionaires and conglomerates but with it is the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The reported growth does not trickle down to the poor. Affluence is mostly only felt and beneficial to the upper echelon of the country. Government must generate revenues by progressively taxing those who have significantly benefited from the growth within the last decade by improving tax administration, address tax evasion and avoidance. The revenues should be used to provide universal quality social services that are affordable and accessible, in particular, education, health, housing and in the provision of water and sanitation and target hard-to-reach groups, especially those in far-flung, remote and upland areas.
Climate Action. From 2011 to 2018, the Philippines has been a consistent third placer in the annual climate-oriented World Risk Report, except in 2014, when it placed second. The most vulnerable sectors are women, children, senior citizens, and people with disability, especially those who depend on natural resources for their livelihood. While government is hard at work to develop adaptation measures that can help various sectors cope with these events by reducing risks, including framework plans to deal with natural disasters as well as climate change impacts and a detailed reporting system to determine the extent of damage and improve the effectivity of future adaptation, opportunities might be missed.
We need a better Department of Energy that will seriously implement the Renewable Energy Act of 2008 otherwise this will be a missed opportunity. The law is a milestone in promoting renewable energy in the Philippines but it has been seriously hobbled to such an extent that four of the five major mechanisms in the Act have not been implemented. The only mechanism that has been implemented, the feed-in tariff (FIT) system, was saddled with such serious flaws that it has not managed to install even a few gigawatts of renewable energy, after ten years. Its implementation has also been suspended for the past three years. Countries like Germany has successfully implemented it. We should be able to draw lessons from them.
Non-nonsense solutions that mobilize local governments and communities are quite easy to implement like segregation from the source, planting trees and supporting agriculture production that uses non-chemical dependent inputs.
Partnerships. Global partnerships must be forged based on a clear vision of how we should take this country forward taking into account our own capacity to generate resources in the most progressive way possible. A growing trade and current account deficits point to structural economic vulnerabilities that can lead to a growing debt problem. This will not be sustainable. Focus should be made on the alarming trend of illicit financial flows, the Marcos wealth, chunk of it yet to be recovered, and our continuous non-lifting of the bank secrecy law which makes the country a potential haven for money laundering and other illicit activities.
Justice for Children. Despite a relatively strong legal and policy framework protecting children from violence, which recently included protection of children in conflict situation, there are also measures which take the country’s progress two steps backward. The right to protection of the most marginalized children are constantly put at risk with proposed measures to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility, anti-illegal drug campaign that endanger children's lives and wellbeing, among others. The need to strengthen the implementation of the policies both at the national and local levels and raising the resources for child protection should be prioritized.
Indigenous People. An indigenous people's perspective on the SDGs offers alternative views on the biggest threat to survival and well-being of humanity. Global priorities that are set are viewed differently by the tribes who aspire for reduced inequalities and the recognition of its peaceful and just institutions to become fully functional so that in their own terms and wisdom, they are able to achieve sustainability in solidarity and without comprising their cultural heritage.
Tobacco as a development issue. Aside from health, tobacco problem extends to poverty, gender inequality, environment, to name a few. Around P210 billion of economic losses is attributable to just four diseases associated to tobacco use. Moreover, the poor is disproportionately burdened with the ill-effects of tobacco. It also hampers food security, environment protection, and climate change due to its significant damage on worldwide deforestation and greenhouse gasses emission. Data from just four tobacco curing provinces revealed that around 3.1 million trees used for tobacco curing alone. As such, extensively studying the direct and indirect relationship of tobacco control to other SDG targets is a compelling endeavor for government, advocates, and other stakeholders.
The PH SDG Agenda: Closing gaps, Overcoming Policy Incoherence
Towards Coherent Policies for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Philippines: A Civil Society Organizations (CSO) Inputs to the Voluntary National Review (VNR) 2019