SDG in three years of DU30

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SDG in three years of DU30

Isagani R. Serrano
President, Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement and Co-Convenor, Social Watch Philippines

With a huge mandate to back it up, the government of President Duterte (PRRD or DU30) set off on a long-term goal of ending poverty by 2040, not 2030, and building a more fair, prosperous, stable and peaceful society through inclusive economic growth that minds environmental limits.1

Three years down the road, DU30 appears on track with its 7-8 percent annual economic growth target because of its massive ‘build, build, build” infrastructure program accounting for 5.4 percent of GDP in 2017. This has been the biggest net regional transfer across all post- Marcos regimes and augurs well for regional development and reducing inequality at least by geography, if not by class. This is specially true for Mindanao and the areas covered by the Bangsa Moro Organic Law.

The negative impact of this massive infrastructure program, specifically conversion to other land uses of already diminishing farmlands, is still to be determined. But one emerging impact has been the movement of the rural poor from agriculture to the construction industry and the disruption of agricultural value chain development initiatives of small producers that have been neglected by the state for a long time. All told, spending in agriculture, where most of the poorest derive their livelihood is disappointing for a country wishing to achieve green industrialization. One could also foresee that the fossil-intensive infrastructure and power programs and projects could reverse modest gains achieved in environmental protection and rehabilitation.

Spending on the social sector was 8.5 percent of GDP. Top priority is yet to be given to light infrastructures, like rural roads, water and sanitation, and home electricity, which impact more directly on the lives of the poor and excluded. There is no firm indication as yet whether and how the promised poverty reduction from 21.6 percent to 14 percent by 2022 will be achieved on a year to year basis. Remittances from overseas Filipinos—a record-setting $28.1 billion in 2017, a 4.3 percent increase from $26.9 billion in 2016---keep the economy going mainly by financing family consumption and, potentially, the growth of the local economy.

The regime that started off on a high note of social consensus is now being threatened by creeping polarization. This is due in part to an abrasive yet popular style of leadership that’s unforgiving to opposition and bearing streaks of Marcosian authoritarianism. Underlying such polarization is the continuing high inequality that allows a tiny group of 16 billionaire-families and their political allies across the political spectrum—accounting for less than 1 percent of the population--so much power and wealth at the expense of so many.

No less than a consensus around a national development strategy founded on inclusive, green agro-industrialization at the regional level with strong local institutions committed to provide basic economic and social services to the poorest will leave no one behind.

Social Watch has made its statement on how the Philippines could finally end poverty and achieve sustainable development through its Spotlight Report three years ago. We wanted to change everything—from a proposed vision of prosperity without growth, to changing the strategy and indicators.  We know it’s not easy.

What we want to see in our assessments and proposals in this CSO consultation is how much of our recommendations have been addressed and how much incremental improvements have been achieved. Many good things are happening within society as a whole. But we 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.


1 Opening Remarks delivered during the CSO Consultation Workshop on “Towards Coherent Policies for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Philippines: CSO Inputs to the Voluntary National Review, February 7, 2019, Hive Hotel and Convention Place, Quezon City.

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