MANILA, Philippines -- The United Nations has urged the Philippines to step up efforts at improving social services for the poor, saying in a progress report that the country is at risk of missing the targets on poverty reduction, education, and maternal health stated under the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
A UN official said in a press briefing on Wednesday that compared with its counterparts in Southeast Asia, the Philippines has been lagging behind in terms of hitting the three, out of the eight, MDGs.
The MDGs are commitments made by UN member-countries and should be achieved by 2015.
The eight MDGs are the following: halving poverty incidence, achieving universal primary education, improving maternal health, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, reducing child mortality, combating diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability, and developing global partnership for development
In the case of the Philippines, the country seemed off track to meet the targets of halving poverty incidence, achieving universal primary education, and improving maternal health.
"With only five years left before the target date, several of the targets seem to be far from reach for the Philippines primarily due to a number of challenges it has faced in the last couple of years that contributed to the slow pace of progress," according to the UN progress report on the MDGs.
Poverty incidence stood at 33 percent in 2006. Latest projections said poverty incidence in 2009, official figure of which would be released next month, still hovered at around a third of the population.
In the goal of having all school-age children attend primary school, the Philippines seems to be also off track.
Data from the United Nations Development Program, the UN arm that monitors progress of countries in the attainment of the MDGs, show that school participation rate of children aged 6 to 11 years old fell to an average of 84.44 percent in school year 2005 to 2006 from the relatively decent figure of 90.3 percent in school year 2002 to 2003.
The lowest participation rate as of school year 2005 to 2006 was recorded in the CARAGA region at only 74.8 percent.
In the goal of improving maternal health, the specific target is to reduce maternal mortality rate to only 52 deaths for every 100,000 live births. UN says the Philippines is far from hitting the goal.
Data from the UNDP say that as of 2006, the maternal mortality rate was still at a high figure of 162 deaths for every 100,00 live births. This, however, was an improvement from the average of 172 recorded between 1993 and 1998.
UN said the Philippine government should attract more foreign investments to create more jobs and increase income levels nationwide. Increase in investments will also increase tax revenues of the government, thus allowing it to spend more on social services.