By Liwliwa Malabed
About 300 participants from various NGOs, civil society, trade unions and government agencies came up with a collective agenda for Noynoy’s term in the 3rd National Multi-sectoral Policy Conference on Human Development held last August 17-18 in Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas, Quezon City. The forum was organized by the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development, Inc., FairTrade Alliance, WomanHealth Philippines and World Wildlife Fund Philippines.
The principle that inspired the conference is “Tao ang Sentro, Tao ang Kalahok, Tao ang Makikinabang” (People-centered, People Participation, and Commitment to People Welfare). The conference took a thematic approach where representatives from different organizations joined the workshops to create their legislative proposals. The 10 themes were Health, Education, Governance and Fiscal Reforms, Agrarian Reform and Rural Development, Trade, Environment, Women, Children, Labor and Human Rights. The thematic groups were asked to present priority policy agenda that will lead to reforms supportive of human development.
Among the proposals discussed were the Reproductive Health Bill; Universal Health Care; Universal Pre-Schooling; Magna Carta for Students; Increasing Budget for Health and Education; Fiscal Responsibility Bill; Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives; National Land Use Bill; National Farm Bill; Alternative Mining Bill; establishment of Philippine Trade Representative Office; Anti-Smuggling; Forestry, Water and Land Use, Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill; Anti-Prostitution Law; Foster Care Bill; Freedom of Information Law; Batas Kasambahay; and LGBT law.
The multi-sectoral agenda were endorsed to Speaker Sonny Belmonte, who expressed support for majority of the policy issues presented. Belmonte is known as a man of action and is responsible for making Quezon City the first city in Metro Manila to have a Reproductive Health Ordinance. The implementation of the ordinance significantly reduced the number of maternal mortality in Quezon City. At present, Quezon City has the lowest maternal mortality rate. He gives credit to advocacy groups who raised the issue of reproductive health to his office when he was serving as Mayor of the city. He urged the participants of the conference to continue monitoring the progress of their advocacies in the 15th congress. Belmonte is confident that the house, with its 140 enthusiastic representatives new to Congress, will rise to the challenge.
Ramon D. San Pascual, executive director of PLCPD, adds that there is a need to keep on challenging legislators and ourselves. He said that PLCPD will provide champions for processing of the bills and facilitate legislative tracking, but maintains that active participation from the people is needed for the bills to be passed. This requires putting into action advocacy and monitoring mechanisms.
Mars Mendoza, executive director of the Fair Trade Alliance, asserts that the conference is a venue for exchange of ideas that will elevate the quality of life of Filipinos. The output of the conference will be useful in assessing the country’s status based on the Millennium Development Goals and drafting our Mid-Term Development Plan.
The MDGs are 8 goals addressing poverty, illiteracy, inequality and disease that 189 countries, including the Philippines, committed to achieve by 2015. Our country is making slow progress in meeting the MGDs, lagging behind Africa’s poorest countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda. The Philippines currently ranks 105 out of 175 countries in human development.
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