A NON-government organization called on lawmakers on Saturday to align “pork barrel” allocations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015.

In an interview with Sun.Star, Social Watch Philippines co-convener Professor Leonor Briones said the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given to congressmen and senators each year will help localize the impact of MDGs like poverty alleviation and universal primary education.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

“Even if the share of the pork barrel funds in the national budget is small relatively to other allocations, this money will go a long way if our lawmakers will use this fund to combat extreme poverty, reducing child mortality, universal primary education, among others,” she said.

“They (lawmakers) should focus on these issues rather than construct new basketball courts or waiting sheds that no one bothered to use,” added Briones.

The proposed P1.645 trillion-budget of the Aquino administration earmarked P22.3 billion for pork barrel, with each congressmen receiving P70 million while senators get P200 million.

Briones, national treasurer during the abbreviated rule of President Joseph Estrada, said that President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III will have his hands full in addressing the goals while asking the media to report both the “good” and “bad” developments regarding the implementation of MDGs.

“Media, together with the civil society organizations will keep an eye on the government’s implementation of social service efforts, especially in achieving the MDGs. Remember that the MDGs are for us. This is for the Filipino people and we should go beyond the MDG through efficient delivery of government services,” she said.

Government data shows that the number of poor Filipinos ballooned to 27.6 million in 2006 from 25.5 million in 2001 while the number of unemployed Filipinos stood at 3.1 million last April.

Both the United Nations and the government admitted that the Philippines has lagged behind neighbors in achieving five of the eight MDGs, namely: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality, improving maternal health, and combating HIV/AIDS.

The other MDGs are ensuring environmental sustainability, promoting gender equality and empower women and developing a global partnership for development, which is primarily directed to industrialized nations.

Meantime, the government said it will be incorporating the MDGs to the Midterm Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) for 2010-2016.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said the government has a three-pronged approach in achieving the MDGs, namely: jobs generation through domestic and foreign investments; provision of incentives for good governance in the local level; and social protection mechanisms like the expansion of conditional cash transfer program.

“Based on the Food and Income Expenditures Survey in 2006, there are 4.6 million families who live below $1.25 per day. We will expand the conditional cash transfer program initiated by the previous administration by targeting at least a million families at the end of the year from 800,000 families today,” she said, adding that the government planning to expand its reach to 2.3 million families by 201.

Socioeconomic planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga has said the government will try to determine the regions that are lagging behind in terms of achieving the goals in a bid to “facilitate inclusive growth and address problems of inequity.”

As this developed, UN said it will be releasing a tripartite (government, UN, civil society) Alternative Roadmap for MDG Progress, which will be launched on September 13.

“It must be noted that MDGs are inter-related goals that cannot be fully achieved separately,” said Jacqueline Badcock, UN Resident Coordinator. “We may have to cram fifteen years of development efforts into five years. Still, I am confident that with all of us working together, the MDGs can still happen in this country.”

The document will be turned over to President Aquino to contribute to the development of the new MTPDP. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)