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PIA Press Release

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Speech during the Launching of the 2007 Global Millennium Development Goals Report and The Philippines Midterm Progress Report

Fiesta Pavilion, Manila Hotel, October 10, 2007

Thank you, very much, Secretary Cabral. Thank you for your introduction.

Speaker De Venecia; our U.N. Representative, Nileema Noble; Congresswoman Soon-Ruiz; Acting Secretary Santos; our members of the legislature; our local government executives; our members of the Diplomatic Corps; different agencies involved in fighting poverty and our NGO's; ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, thank you to the U.N. Philippine team headed by Nileema and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) headed by Tito Santos for the progress report. And thanks to all the other partner agencies for the progress itself on our Millennium Development Goals.

I'm happy to hear that of 15 indicators, we're doing quite well in 10, and I guess this is because we're one of the few countries where the MDGs are really internalized in the economic reforms reflected in our Medium-Term Development Plan.

This is the mid-term of the MDG period. I was getting confused because the baseline is 1990, the end point is 2010, so I said, why are we in the mid-term? That's because we started to make the commitments in year 2000. So we are in between the commitment here rather than the baseline year of 2000 and the end time of 2015.

And our goal, and I would say that in this mid-term of our commitment, our economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in 20 years. And I'm glad to see the rate of poverty is down, the rate of poverty is down, general poverty as well as what we have seen, extreme poverty. And we're heartened that the ratio of Filipinos living in extreme poverty has been drastically cut from 20.4 percent in 1990 to 10.2 percent in 2006. Employment is up.

Our education and health care services to the poor have vastly improved. Our progress report says we have a long way to go there. But only through a strong economy can we improve the plight of the poor, our education and our health.

And to that end, I am glad we have turned the corner on our economy. Six years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues. No one thought we could cut down on tax cheats. No one thought we could strengthen the peso. No one thought we could move the stock market. No one thought we could bring down our budget deficit to almost zero. No one thought we could pre-pay our debts. No one thought we could raise our employment, but we have.

And for that first goal about getting more revenues, thanks once again to the Congress of the Philippines. (applause) All these now allow us to invest in job creation but also better health care and more educational opportunities.

For the first time in decades, in our budget, less of our revenue is being used for debt service and more towards investment in our country's infrastructure including education and health care. (applause) Which is why the Philippines is on a path to permanent economic growth and stability and which is why investments are pouring in; which is why the peso is strong; which is why our stock market has reached historic heights and which is why we have created six million jobs in six years. The world is taking notice.

The world and the markets acknowledge our gains in economic reform and political stability despite efforts by some quarters to project the opposite image.

The imperative now is to sustain growth by making long overdue investments in education, health care and training and attract investments by fast tracking billions of pesos in new bridges, roads and ports. In fact, that's part of the recommendations of the Millennium Development Goals, to upgrade infrastructure so that we can upgrade the competitiveness of the Philippines undelayed by politicking. These are the keys to lifting the poor up.

Poverty alleviation is our overarching goal. It is the goal that we will continue to focus on in the remaining years of our term -- raising revenue was just the first step. The short answer to continue with the economic growth and meeting all the Millennium Development Goals, not just the 10 out of the 15 is summed in three words: invest, invest, invest.

We must follow up the pain of tax raising measures with the gain that comes from significant investment in people and projects. So, over the next three years, we will translate the positive results of our reforms to real benefits for the people.

We will increase investment in our country, in our people too, first of all improve our infrastructure as recommended by the U.N. after assessing the MDG to create an environment in which businesses feel confident to expand and employ more people because more jobs means less poverty and more children can go to school and stay in school and more mothers can have healthy maternal care.

Second, directly improve social services such as health insurance subsidies for indigent patients. If we see that in our Millennium Development Goals Progress Report we are lagging behind on reducing infant mortality... Maternal -- we're good at infant mortality but -- maternal mortality, one of the solutions that we have adapted is that we are including child birth in our coverage of health insurance. It used to be that health insurance only covered sickness and so they would say child birth is not sickness, therefore, you shouldn't include child birth. But maternal mortality is something that we must avoid so we are including child birth now in our health insurance.

Also, we are spending money to upgrade local government hospitals from primary to secondary because secondary hospitals have facilities for childbirth and caesarian delivery. So, if we have better local government hospitals -- no more primary mostly secondary and some may even be tertiary -- then more mothers will give birth in the hospital and that will also reduce maternal death.

And then as far as health care is concerned we're also increasing our subsidies for food-for-school programs. Now one of our problems in the Millennium Development Goals is the survival rate. Lots of children enroll in school but at the end of the day they don't stay in school, they drop out somewhere along the way.

But we have some studies that say that those who go to early education which is Day Care Centers, good Day Care Centers and pre- schools are the ones that survive up to the end of grade school. That's why we're having food-for-school programs in Day Care Centers and pre- schools in order to entice their parents to send them to school.

In other words, when the children go to pre-school or Day Care, they get a bag of rice that they can bring home to their families and the whole family can eat improving the hunger situation. But also, it is an enticement for parents to send their children to school, their little children to school because they will bring home not the bacon but the rice. And so, that will keep our children... That will entice parents to send their children to early childhood education and improve the survival rate up to the end of the elementary education.

So therefore, what I'm saying is that not only are the goals of our Millennium Development Goals incorporated in our Medium-Term Plan, in the way to implement our medium-term plan, we also pay very careful attention to the areas suggested by the MDG progress reports. So, we are putting money on the areas suggested by the MDG progress report.

And third, boost educational support, of course, in our efforts to reduce poverty by investing in better schoolbuildings, new textbooks and teaching materials, and training programs for teachers and school administrators.

And fourth, cutting red tape and continuing to eliminate corruption from the system.

Hindi dapat mahinto ang pagsulong ng investment sa tao at imprastraktura na makakabawas ng kahirapan dahil sa batikos. Kaya naman inatasan natin ang China Projects Oversight Panel sa ilalim ni Secretary Favila na siguruhin na walang balakid ang napakahalagang proyekto ng cyber education para sa karunungan ng milyung-milyon nating mag-aaral. Kasi kung gusto natin na huwag mag drop-out ang ating mga kabataan sa malalayong lugar dapat maganda ang paaralan nila at maganda ang pinag-aaralan nila. Maganda dapat ang course content. Dapat naniniwala ang magulang nila na yung natututunan nila ay magagamit nila pagkatapos. At yun naman ang kahalagahan ng Distance Learning at Cyber Education.

Kaya para siguraduhin na hindi na naman ito masisira o mapipigil dahil sa problema ng mga batikos hihingiin ng task force ni Secretary Favila ang tulong ng Education Task Force sa ilalim ni Father Ben Nebres ng Ateneo upang matiyak na alinsunod ang proyekto sa pangangailangan ng edukasyon. Kabalikat din dito ang itinayo nating Procurement Transparency Group na kasama ang Civil Society Organizations for Procurement Reform upang maging bukas at transparent ang pagproseso ng proyekto.

And of course, we will continue to fight against terrorism and work to bring peace to Mindanao so that we can improve all those indicators in the poorest areas of our country, namely, especially as mentioned in the report of Tito Santos, the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and CARAGA.

To bring in more investments and jobs, we must also advance peace in conflict areas in Mindanao especially but also in other areas through amnesty and local peace initiatives such as being undertaken in Agusan, which is in CARAGA, as well as in Bohol which is the model for local peace processes.

In conclusion or in summary we hear and heed the advice to strengthen our efforts in five areas of education and health to make sure our Millennium targets are met. This will raise not only living standards but also when we spend on education and health care we improve the quality of our human resources and our competitiveness and this will in turn attract more investment, create jobs, ultimately improving the lives of our people in a virtuous cycle.

Our intermediate goal is to reduce the incidence of poverty by half and to meet all the MDG commitments by 2015. And this is consistent with our vision which is a Philippines on the verge of First World status in 20 years when we will have dramatically cut, reduce poverty, created a robust middle-class and then all the hallmarks of a modern society in strong, stable institutions. But while we are still in the process of strengthening our institutions, let me assure you that politics will not distract us from our tasks.

Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat. (OPS) [top]

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