WHEN THE 15th Congress opened last June, there seemed to be renewed energy toward passing the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, which had floundered in the legislature’s previous incarnation, just when transparency advocates had thought it was about to be ratified.
In the House of Representatives, Quezon representative Lorenzo ‘Erin’ Tañada III, a staunch FOI advocate and a member of the Liberal Party, convened a technical working group to jumpstart the process. At the other end of the metropolis, the Senate committee on public information, chaired by Senator Gregorio Honasan, held a hearing to discuss the bill.
But the momentum to pass the measure has since fizzled and the Aquino administration’s flip-flop on the bill appears to be the main cause of the lack of legislative activity on it.
IN HIS message that accompanies the proposed government budget for next year, President Benigno C. Aquino III notes that the allocation for health is 13.6 percent higher than 2010’s P29.3 billion (According to the 2010 General Appropriations Act though, only P28.7 billion was allocated to the Health Department).
Yet if one were to compare health’s share of the budget for this year and what the corresponding figure could be in the next, the difference isn’t much.
For 2010, the health allocation is 1.8 percent of the P1.54-trillion national purse. For 2011, the Aquino administration is proposing P32.62 billion for health –as indicated in the proposed National Expenditure Program — which is 1.9 percent of the P1.64-trillion national budget. The increase in terms of share in the total budget then would amount to just a tenth of a percentage point.
IT WILL be his first official trip overseas as the country’s chief executive, but President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III has little reason to look forward to his upcoming visit to the United States.
On September 20, Aquino will be at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, where he is expected to present just how far the Philippines has achieved progress in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Unfortunately, in large measure because of the shortcomings of his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Aquino is bound to acknowledge before other world leaders that the country is falling short of several of these targets.
In September 2000, the Philippines and 188 other countries signed the Millennium Declaration, and committed themselves to achieving a set of eight goals by 2015. These goals – the MDGs – have since been commonly accepted as a framework for measuring development progress for both rich and poor countries.
NAGA CITY’S successes in its poverty alleviation efforts no doubt allowed it to focus its resources on improving access to basic services like education. But all its education reform efforts could not have been possible without its reinvention of the local school board.
The transformation began in 2001, when the MDGs were largely unheard of and a national government directive for the goals to be localized and included in development planning processes was yet forthcoming. But Naga’s decision then to revamp the school board’s orientation and organizational structure later put the city in a better position to address the gaps in achieving the MDG targets in education.
NAGA CITY, CAMARINES SUR — If one were to put local governments in a classroom setting, the executive body of this thriving city southwest of Metro Manila would be the overachieving nerd, the one guaranteed to garner the most medals at the end of each term.
So when Naga City received a failing grade in one of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — achieving universal primary education — local officials characteristically lost no time in dreaming up a program aimed at improving its score. It’s a situation made even more challenging by the city’s demographics: one out of every three Nagueño is of school age. But as Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo put it, “We need to address the continuing inability of our school system to ensure that no child is left behind.”
NAGA CITY — Just about anybody who has avidly followed the remarkable political career of Jesse Robredo exhibited the same perplexed reaction to the news that the multi-awarded chief executive of this premier city had fielded his wife to run for mayor — a position he is also vying for in the coming local elections in May.
THEY MAY not seem to have anything in common, but there is something that the first-class province of Negros Oriental, the second-class city of Surigao in Surigao del Norte, and the fifth-class municipality of Sabangan in Mt. Province share: all three are held up as exemplars of excellence in local governance, thanks to the stewardship of their respective local chief executives.