Reforms are needed in the country’s anti-poverty policies to address violations to the people’s right to development, a multi-stakeholder network asserted in a policy forum held Friday, 23 August 2019.
The Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG) scrutinized the Philippine government’s social and economic policies and noted how they still fall short of addressing the people’s persistent woes. These include uneven access to social services and public utilities, high disguised unemployment, and disaster vulnerability.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) until 2030 rally countries towards poverty elimination, protection of the earth, and peace and prosperity for all. These guide the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) policy and funding. The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 supposedly serves as the country’s roadmap for achieving the SDGs.
The PDP 2017-2022 however neglects the structural roots of poverty and inequality, said CPDG board member and IBON executive director Sonny Africa. It also aggravates this with its market-oriented policies of privatization, liberalization and deregulation.
Africa noted the declared anti-poverty objectives of the recently passed Magna Carta for the Poor (RA 11291), the institutionalization of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps, RA 11310), and others. However, he also pointed out that these supposed steps towards social redress are not grounded on a broader, more strategic anti-poverty plan.
“Any seeming gains form the Magna Carta, 4Ps, free tuition in state universities and colleges, ‘universal health care’, free irrigation, expanded maternity leave, occupational health and safety, and others will all be self-limiting without a more decisive break from market-oriented and profit-based approaches,” Africa said. “The Magna Carta for instance fails to include other important rights such as to unionize, social security and social insurance, food sovereignty and self-determination because the measures needed here will impinge on private profits,” added Africa.
In the forum, CPDG members elaborated on major areas needing drastic reform. IBON took up economic underdevelopment, joblessness, poor quality work, regressive taxes, and structural inequalities. Representatives from the Federation of Free Workers (FFW), Plan International, BAI Indigenous Women’s Network, Pambansang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), Amihan, and Humanity and Inclusion tackled governance and social services delivery from the perspective of workers, women, youth and children, indigenous people, persons with disability, fisherfolk and farmers.
Issues taken up include: persistent contractualization; attacks on unions, organized workers and other rights-demanding sectors; landlessness and food insecurity; natural resources marginalization; profit-driven social services and public utilities; and violations of indigenous people’s rights.
Representatives from the Moro Christian People’s Alliance (MCPA), Climate Change Network for Community Initiatives (CCNCI) and the Center for Environmental Concerns (CEC), Center for Women’s Resources (CWR), Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay), Alyansa ng Bagong Pilipinas (ABP) and the Samahan at Ugnayan ng mga Konsyumer para sa Ikauunlad ng Bayan (SUKI) discussed repression and citizen engagement, climate resilience and environment, social protection, concerns with regard to housing and Build Build Build, and consumer issues.
There was also discussion of citizen engagement towards people-centered social policy introduced. This was taken up by Asec. Glenda Relova from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), League of Provinces Executive Director Ms. Sandra Paredes-Tablan, and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Asec. Myrna Asuncion. The private sector was represented by former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) undersecretary and currently Zuellig Family Foundation Vice President Mr. Austere Panadero. They spoke on the outcomes and challenges in social services delivery.
CPDG Spokesperson Liza Maza closed the forum. She pointed out that perpetuating decades-old poverty and inequality may already be considered a crime against humanity and stressed that social programs now only mitigate aspects of poverty without ending this. “A rights-based approach and a change in power relations and structures are needed to truly address poverty,” said Maza. She also underscored that “There should be greater unity among CSOs to strengthen engagement with government and it is important to have an open space for CSO engagement.”
The multi-stakeholder policy forum was held at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman International Center for Public Administration in partnership with the UNDP. There were over 150 individuals from 87 organizations representing civil society, people’s organizations (POs), faith-based organizations, development partners, government line agencies, local government units (LGUs), legislative staff from the Senate and House of Representatives, teachers and students.
EILER is a member of the Council for People’s Development and Governance (CPDG), a broad national network of national, sectoral and regional networks of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and people’s organizations (POs) engaged in genuine development.