Poverty reduction, education and health, among top priorities of the House — Speaker

September 15, 2010 10:40 am 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Sept. 14 — House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. on Tuesday reiterated that Congress will not lose focus on poverty reduction, education and public health as the House of Representatives combs through the proposed P1.645-trillion "reform budget" for 2011 of the Aquino administration.

Speaking at the opening ceremonies of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDG) week held Monday at the RVM Lobby, Batasan Complex, the Speaker noted the most recent UN report which indicates the Philippines underperforming in at least three MDG goals of poverty reduction, education and maternal health.

He pointed out that the country's underperformance occurred "during a period characterized by high GNP (gross national product) and GDP (gross domestic product) growths," which proves that "growth without the right political leadership serves to benefit a select few but ironically excludes the poorest and the voiceless."

"We must maximize available government resources by way of reducing opportunities for corruption and wasteful public spending. We have to be responsible and prudent in the use of public money," he added.

Belmonte said the present political leadership assumed power "on pledges of ending corruption and poverty. These pledges are consistent with the country's commitments to achieve MDG (goals)."

"Taxes appropriated in the annual national budget are the life blood of government. Every cent should be spent where it should," he said.

The House leader stressed that the fight against poverty, the need to improve quality education and ensure public health are among major areas of concern.

He assured that Congress will exercise its independence in the budget process even as he expressed support for the President's call for "good fiscal governance. The Constitution vests in Congress the power to appropriate public money because its members are better attuned to the needs of their respective constituencies. We will not abdicate on this duty," he explained.

Belmonte said he is gratified by the enthusiastic and non-partisan response of House members to his earlier call for active participation in House proceedings, specially in the budget deliberations.

"Attendance is just marvelous. It's heartwarming to see them really work hard," he said.

The Speaker also affirmed the institution's commitment to achieve the MDG and called on all House Members to act now and help end poverty by 2015.

"The race to 2015 is on its final stretch. The realization of the millennium development goals is a commitment we will not neglect. This chamber shall devote its work in the next three years to ensure that our national efforts will conform if not exceed – the benchmark in this movement," he said.

According to Belmonte, the commitment to fulfill the MDG goals "shall underlie our decisions when we craft the annual national budget, review laws on taxation and guidelines on utilization of development assistance, when we agree to fund public programs, actions and projects and when we scrutinize every piece of proposed legislation."

"The present political leadership which assumed power on pledges of ending corruption and poverty are pledges consistent with the country's commitments to achieve MDGs," he said.

House committee on MDG chairperson and Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos said, as chair of MDG special committee, "it is my prayer that the MDG week and the 'Stand Up' campaign will be a source of inspiration among us. The MDG special committee cannot do it alone for we need the concerted effort of civil society and United Nations to ensure that socially responsive legislation is performed. If we sincerely work together, I am confident it is possible to achieve MDG 2015 deadline and beyond."

For his part, House committee on rural development chair and Quezon Rep. Wilfrido Mark Enverga, who expressed support for the MDG week-long celebration, said "rural development and MDGs are closely interwoven."

Enverga said, "majority of the people who live in extreme poverty are residents of the rural barangays of this country and if we truly want to eradicate extreme poverty, we have to start with the poor rural barangays."

He also called on the private sector to partner with the government in ensuring that the MDG campaign gets all the funds it needs.

Meanwhile, United Nations Resident Coordinator Dr. Jacqueline Badcock said "it is not yet too late. The new government that came into office on July gives us hope for the MDGs — hope of eradicating corruption, of improving public governance, and providing a bright future where not one Pinoy will be left behind."

"We are pleased to have the support of the Honorable Speaker, the Special Committee on MDGs, the Committee on Rural Development and the PLCPD in the series of activities as a build up to the September 20-22 MDG summit in New York," said Baddock. (PNA)

DCT/LGI

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