Social Watch Philippines and the Global Call to Action against Poverty (GCAP) said in a joint statement yesterday that the funds were appropriated by Congress last year to arrest tuberculosis and other infectious diseases. The funds were impounded by the President and has yet to be released.
"This being her last SONA, she should commit to release the budget allocations for social development and poverty alleviation which she impounded. Like any accountable government official, she should clear her budget backlog and all other accountabilities," the joint statement said.
Social Watch and GCAP, prime movers of the monitoring of and campaign for the fulfillment of the millennium development goals, said that there is no way for the Arroyo government to meet its target to half poverty by 2015 as stipulated in the MDGs. The MDGs is a set of eight goals to halve poverty and hunger agreed upon by 191 countries in the year 2000.
"Not only is the Philippines not going to meet the MDGs, we are even in a poorer situation now," said Joel Saracho, GCAP Philippine coordinator.
The statement also cited SWS survey in the first quarter of 2009 saying 47 percent or 8.7 million Filipino families consider themselves poor," and that "34.2 percent of the labor force is unemployed. The current financial crisis is expected to cause rise in joblessness and increase in food prices, thus driving more people to hunger and poverty."
GCAP and Social Watch said the only for SONA to be meaningful is if the President "will categorically state that there will be presidential elections in 2010 and that Congress will not convene as a Constituent Assembly."
"Otherwise," the two groups said, "it will just be another set of lies. And we have had enough!"