May 16, 2018

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon assured members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) that reducing inequality is at the core of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, the country’s blueprint for socioeconomic development.

Edillon led the Philippine delegation to the UNESCAP’s 74th Session held at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 11-16, 2018, with the theme “Inequality in the era of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”

Reading the country statement, Edillon challenged member countries of the UN to address the interconnected nature of inequality.

“The challenge for us is to look outside of our silos and beyond our borders to craft solutions to address the interconnected nature of inequality. The UNESCAP and its member states, like the SDGs, are interconnected, and the solutions that we craft must be fully aware of this interconnectedness,” Edillon said.

At the session, she took the opportunity to share with the UNESCAP the Philippines’ experience in reducing inequality with the guidance of the PDP.

The second pillar of the PDP, she said, is all about bringing forth “inequality-reducing transformation.”

Edillon explained that on the production front, the PDP aims to expand market opportunities and make these even more accessible to small farmers and fisherfolk, and micro-, small- and medium enterprises.

The Philippines, she said, continuously benefits from its active participation in multilateral and regional fora such as the World Trade Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and United Nations.

With regard to Asean, Edillon said the Philippines made a commitment to implement the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services, promoting free flow of trade in services within Asean.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has been working closely with other members of the Asean to come up with the Asean Qualification Reference Framework, which is a translation device to enable comparisons of education qualifications across participating Asean countries.

“This intends to optimize opportunities for our professionals who consider working abroad as their path towards achieving human development for themselves and their family,” Edillon said.

Edillon cited other initiatives that the government has undertaken to address inequality which include the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) program, the Free Tuition Law in state colleges and universities (SUCs), the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, and the Unconditional Cash Transfer (UCT) program, which is expected to cushion price adjustments brought by the comprehensive tax reform on poor households.

Meanwhile, at the side event of UNESCAP’s 74th Session on Disaster Information Management, the NEDA Undersecretary underscored the importance of strengthening the country’s disaster resiliency coming from hard lessons brought by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013.

“Disasters are at the core of inequality. Disasters affect us differently, often exposing our vulnerabilities and making the poor even worse off,” Edillon said.