QUEZON CITY, Philippines – Women members of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC) today urged President Benigno S. Aquino III to honor the government’s “social debt,” especially to Filipino women who now “carry heavier burden due to the deficiencies of past and present administrations.”

In a press conference, FDC women leaders also demanded from the government automatic appropriations for social and economic services as a solution to the government’s accumulating “social debt.” They also announced that they will be staging a big rally Wednesday, a day before the International Women’s Day celebration, from España Boulevard to Malacañang.

“In honoring the financial debt of the country, the government has created a new, less visible debt: a debt to the people. We call this ‘Social Debt’ – debt to the poor, to the jobless, to the youth, to all marginalized sectors, especially women. Every peso paid to service the country's debt adds to Social Debt,” said former FDC president Maria Teresa Diokno.

According to FDC, women have, for the longest time, taken on the responsibility of the health, well-being and development of their families as they provide for food on the table, health care services, ensuring roof over the heads of their families and education for their children.  In reality, these also comprise the basic and essential needs of the Filipino people, for which government is obligated to ensure.  

Food, education, health and housing are rights enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (IESCR) both adopted (1966); and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW, 1984).  

“But government has failed to provide for its citizens, as its programs fall short in providing these needs and services for all.  Social programs are sacrificed time and again, every time government’s fiscal standing falters,” said FDC vice president Manjette Lopez.  

She added, “Past and present administrations have prioritized debt servicing over the provision of social services, particularly health, education and housing. These have resulted in high maternal mortality, children not completing education, increasing number of street dwellers, and a wide gap between rich and poor.  In the end, the task of providing becomes the woman’s burden, and becomes heavier during times of economic difficulties and crisis.”

Statistics for reproductive health show that 162 women still die from child birth.  

“Women need not die from giving birth especially since key international and national policies, such as CEDAW and the Magna Carta of Women that assure women’s health from birth until death, have been passed over the last decades. Women’s health goes beyond looking after health during her reproductive years,” stressed Nora Protacio of WomanHealth Philippines.

FDC’s Lopez said, “If we go by WHO standards, adequate health programs require government budget allocations equivalent to 5% of gross domestic product.  This means that based on record of yearly budget allocations for health, Philippine Government has accumulated a health debt of P4.8 trillion from 1986 to 2011.”   

For education, 6 out of 10 children in the ages of 12-15 drop out from secondary education and eventually 3 are only able to reach tertiary level, according to government data.  

Gloria Santos, WC Coordinating Team Member and a teacher by profession, said that mothers struggle with putting their children to school, in their belief that education assures their children’s future.  

FDC pointed out that if the country abides by the UNESCO standard of 6% of GNP provision for adequate education for all, the Philippine Government has an accumulated education debt of P3.56 trillion from 1986 to 2011.

Santos shared that “for many mothers increasing drop-out rates means that their efforts are not matched by ample government service, and mother’s responsibility over providing for their children also continues to extend.”  

As regards shelter, the government has 11,947,992 housing backlog in all regions, according to the HUDCC report 2010. With P120,000 for a 45-square meter house, the government’s social debt to the housing sector amounts to P1.43 trillion for 2010 alone.  

Lynie Olimpio of Koalisyon Pabahay ng Pilipinas said, “This meager housing allocation has failed to make housing accessible and affordable to many families. In fact, about 80% of families now face the sad situation of their communities being demolished or forclosure of their property.”

“In light of all of these government deficiencies in how they appreciate the rights of its people, women now demand that government automatically appropriates for economic and social services as part of its state obligation to uphold the rights and development of its citizens,” said Lopez. -30-

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