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What makes the Philippines unsustainable

In a democratic form of government, the Philippines must prove its sustainability to uphold, support and nurture the liberty of life. We have entrusted this to the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government freely elected to power by the citizens. Sad to say, in President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s administration we seem to be going back to the Dark Ages -- that initial part of world history without deep knowledge and culture when people constantly feuded. Daily we see the President confronting the Justices, while Congress and the Senate are squabbling. The President’s constant horseplay is debasing our country. It is compromising our relationship with revered world institutions, as well as hindering the country’s progress toward full sustainable development.  

Our failure to meet the eight UNMDG 2000-2015 Development Goals extended the global assignment by another fifteen years. Now, the U.N. Agenda 30 for Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) urges world leaders to uphold its seventeen objectives for self-sufficiency.

Sdg #11 Upholding sustainable cities and communities

The 2017 edition of the Global Livability Index reported that Manila ranked 104 out of 140. Cities included in the report were assessed based on over 30 qualitative and quantitative factors across five broad categories, namely: stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure. Manila scored worse for stability and healthcare. Indicators under the stability pillar included prevalence of petty crime and violent crime, as well as threats of terror, military conflict and civil unrest. Healthcare included the availability of private health care, availability of over-the-counter drugs, and general healthcare indicators.

R.A. 7160, Barangay Law, entails the restructuring of DepEd, DA (agriculture), DSWD, DOH (health) from the national to the local levels. This includes granting the mayor power to appoint the local PNP (policemen) and intervene in the teacher appointment and school building priorities. To finance the development strategy, the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) and the one percent of the Real Property Tax were instituted. Unfortunately, some LGUs became dependent on this limited fund. Instead of developing innovative entrepreneurship in the barangays, they chose to be complacent while their constituents remained poor.  The UNICEF survey observed that more than two decades of unamended RA 7160 failed to empower barangays.

Sdg #3 Good health and well being

LGUs prescribe good health programs on paper but fail to get things done. There are inadequate professional doctors for pregnant mothers and ailing children. Villages are forced to resort to hilot (local “midwives”) without professional training. Without prenatal training and care, the maternal and infant mortality rates remain high. Have mayors also strove to provide Clean Water and Sanitation (SDG #6) and Affordable and Clean Energy (SDG #7)?

Former health secretary Esperanza Cabral, who heads the Department of Health’s national implementation team of the Reproductive Health Law, stated that the FDA does not have to recertify the 51 products to lift the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the Supreme Court (SC) in June 2015. “I think the FDA should have independence from the vested interest of people who want to make a profit out of things that are regulated by the FDA,” she added. Since the TRO issuance, some 1,000 women have died from pregnancy and childbearing complications, and caused some 500,000 unintended pregnancies.

Hundreds of millions of families barely scrape by on less than $1.25 a day, pushing the world ever further from the vision of equality embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As of this year 2017, 4.2 million or 21.7 percent of the 19.84 million youths neither go to school nor hold jobs.  Because of teenage pregnancy, female youths account for the bigger share of the youth NEE (not in education & employment). DOLE said prolonged NEE status could increase the risk of continued cycle of poverty.

Sdg #8 Decent work and economic growth

According to the research of Philippine Business for Education a private sector led organization advocating quality education, results of the most recent licensure examinations for teachers (LET), reveal the performance of teacher education institutions (TEIs) in the country continue to worsen.

The average passing rate of graduates of teacher education courses since 2009 is only 31% lower than those of medicine (58%), the sciences (54%), maritime (51%), engineering (45%), accountancy (38%), and agriculture (36%) courses. At least half of the colleges and universities with teacher education programs for elementary (1,024) and secondary (11,258) levels perform below the national passing rate, PBEd said.

We have failed to attain SDG #8 Decent Work and Economic Growth since we have fallen short of QUALITY basic education, from preschool to high school particularly vocational education that provides occupational skills. This is linked to SDG #12 Responsible Production and Consumption, entailing technical training in Fisheries, Marine Science for SDG #14 Life Below the Water, and SDG #15 Life on Land that involves Forestry Education, Farming, and Animal Husbandry. Our food resources depend on this, especially since world hunger haunts leaders of the world. After a decade-long decline world hunger spiked last year due to the scourges of global warming and civil conflicts, according to the report of the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization during the ongoing UNESCO and UN General Assemblies, which was timed for the world leaders’ annual review of their hopes and fears for the planet.   

On becoming a ‘can-do’ nation once again

What happened to the Philippines as the land of freedom and openness? This is the hardest question our nation faces, and it challenges us to recommit ourselves to pursuing our nation’s noblest goals of equality and opportunity. Let us find these opportunities, and artfully mix practical ideas with compassionate guidance for the stakes have never been higher. Our economic vitality and democratic ideals are both at risk. In order to compete with the global market, we must invest in people and ideas, reward hard work, and value dialogue and debate.

I quote Thomas Jefferson: “. . . for I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”

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