The Philippines: Human Development Index Ranking and
Progress in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals

Economic Planning Sec. Arsenio M. Balisacan

National Launch and Press Conference of the 2014 Human Development Report
and 5th PHL Progress Report on the MDGs

(As read by National Statistician Lisa Grace Bersales)

20 August 2014
Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria

Mr. Maurice Dewulf, Country Director, United Nations Development Programme;
Ms. Luiza Carvalho, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Resident Representative of the UNDP;
Professor Emmanuel De Dios, President of the Philippine Human Development Network;
Secretary Corazon Soliman of the Department of Social Welfare and Development;
Secretary Mary Ann Lucille Sering of the Climate Change Commission;
Governor Jose Sarte Salceda of Albay;
Ms. Karen Tañada, Executive Director of the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute;
Mr. Rapa Lopa, Executive Director of Philippine Business for Social Progress;
friends in the academe, private sector and media; fellow public servants; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

In 1990, the United Nations Development Programme launched the first Human Development Report, with the assertion that people are the real wealth of a nation, and that development is ultimately best measured by its impact on individual, human lives. Until that time, development thinking had been dominated by the idea that the economy came first, and people second. By putting people at the forefront of development, and backing this view with empirical data, the Human Development Report changed the way countries craft development policies.

As the year 2000 approached, there was a growing realization of the need to set clear, achievable goals that UN member countries should commit to and work towards. Thus, at the UN Millennium Summit in September 2000, the world’s leaders ratified the UN Millennium Declaration, which concretized an agreement to help citizens in the world’s poorest countries to achieve a better life by the year 2015. From this declaration, eight Millennium Development Goals were derived, emphasizing human capital, infrastructure, and human rights, with the intention of raising the living standards of the world’s poorest populations.

The Human Development Report measures development using the Human Development Index (HDI), which is a composite statistic of life expectancy, education, and income indices. In 2010, the HDR introduced the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), which as the name suggests, accounts for inequality. Meanwhile, the MDG Progress Reports provide periodic assessments of countries’ progress in achieving the eight goals, and track achievements made over time, using a set of indicators per goal. The previous reports were released in 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2010. This latest report shows the progress made for each of the MDGs; the probability of achieving the targets by 2015; analysis of inequality in terms of regional performance; challenges and bottlenecks; and immediate actions needed to accelerate the achievement of the MDGs where the Philippines is lagging behind.

Together, the two reports provide countries such as the Philippines with a powerful tool to identify the areas in which we are progressing well, and those where we need to exert greater effort. Also, it gives us an idea of how well we are progressing as compared to the performance of other countries.

Let us now look at what the latest editions of these two reports are telling us.

Let me now go into the highlights of the 2014 Human Development Report, which provides an assessment of countries’ development using four (4) indices: Human Development Index, Gender Inequality Index, Gender Development Index, and Multidimensional Poverty Index.

The HDR uses primarily the Human Development Index (HDI) as the main measure. The HDI summarizes long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development:

(1) Long and healthy life, measured by life expectancy at birth
(2) Access to knowledge, measured by

(a) Mean years of education for the adult population (which is the average number of years of education received in a lifetime by people aged 25 years and older) and
(b) Expected years of schooling for children of school-age entrance (total number of years of schooling a child of school-entry age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates stay the same throughout the child’s life); and

(3) A decent standard of living, measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars and converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates.

The HDI is primarily based on the following international data: UN Population Division, UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) and the World Bank. This year’s HDI covers 187 countries and UN-recognized territories.

The HDR also rates countries based on their Gender Inequality Index, Gender Development Index, and Multidimensional Poverty index.

In 2013, the Philippines ranked 117 out of 187 countries. Our country’s progress in the indicators of basic human development listed in the table show that between 1980 and 2013:

(1) Life expectancy increased by 6.5 years;
(2a) Mean years of schooling has gone up by 2.8 years;
(2b) Expected years of schooling has risen by 1 year; and
(3) There was an increase of 44.9 percent in GNI per capita.

Overall, the Philippine Human Development Index (HDI) value increased by 16.5 percent between 1980 and 2013. This is an annual average of about 0.46 percent.

Comparing the Philippine HDI for 2013 with other countries and regions, we observe that the Philippines’ 2013 HDI of 0.660 is higher than the average of 0.614 for countries in the medium human development group, but lower than the average of 0.703 for countries in East Asia and the Pacific.

From the East Asia and the Pacific, countries which are close to the Philippines in 2013 HDI and rank (and to some extent in population size) are Thailand and Indonesia, both of which have ranked higher.

The 2014 Human Development Report also presents the Inequality-adjusted HDI (IHDI), which was first introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report. The HDI can be viewed as an index of ‘potential’ human development, while the IHDI is an index of actual human development. The ‘loss’ in potential human development due to inequality is given by the difference between the HDI and the IHDI, and can be expressed as a percentage.

When the Philippines’ HDI is discounted for inequality, the value falls to 0.540. This can be interpreted as a 18.1 percent overall loss due to inequality of distribution of the basic human development indicators. The overall loss due to inequality is lower in the Philippines than in other medium HDI countries (25.6 percent) and East Asia and the Pacific (19.7 percent). However, this clearly shows that addressing inequality can greatly improve overall human development in the country.

The most recent figures reported for the Philippines’ Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) shows that 7.3 percent of the population are multidimensionally poor, while an additional 12.2 percent are near multidimensional poverty.

With regard to the Gender Inequality Index, the Philippines ranks 78th out of 149 countries, with a value of 0.406. Meanwhile, our Gender Development Index is at 0.989. This is higher than average in the medium HDI group, and in the East Asia and the Pacific.

Generally, the Philippines improved slightly in human development. With the recalculated values using the latest methodology, it appears that the Philippines rose a notch from 2012 to 2013 in terms of HDI. We are improving, but at a very slow pace.

According to the 2014 Human Development report, most countries are also experiencing this — overall human development levels continue to rise, but at a slower pace than before. Despite the gains, more than 15 percent of the world’s people remain vulnerable to multidimensional poverty. The report also highlights that the high achievements on critical aspects of human development can be quickly undermined by a natural disaster or economic slump.

These observations parallel what we are seeing as we continue to implement the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 Midterm Update. The Philippine economy continues to perform well in the region despite the calamities that we faced, but there is still so much that we can do to enable people to participate better in the country’s development process. This is why we continue to work to reduce vulnerabilities and improve human capabilities, as I will discuss later.

In its call for collective action, the Human Development Report recommends that policies and interventions be anchored in three broad areas: prevention, promotion and protection.

Prevention refers to policies that aim to help reduce the impact and magnitude of shocks by preventing conflict, improving economic stability, reducing the impact of environmental shocks, and halting the spread of disease. Meanwhile, promoting capabilities through policies that advance people’s core capabilities can directly improve human resilience by barriers that obstruct individuals’ and communities’ ability to act in the face of adversities. The report also acknowledges that natural and man-made shocks may still occur, despite preparation and preventive measures. The people affected by them will need help and assistance when it happens. To address this, social protection, health insurance and active employment creation may be good policy responses.

Let us now proceed to the highlights of the Philippine Progress Report on the Millennium Development Goals for 2013.

To summarize the Philippines’ progress on the MDGs for 2013, the country is likely to meet the targets on food poverty; education in terms of school participation; providing education opportunities for girls; infant and under-five mortality; malaria; detection, treatment success and cure rates of tuberculosis cases; access to safe water supply, and access to sanitary toilet facilities.

On the other hand, we need to double or triple our efforts to meet the targets on income poverty; nutrition; dietary energy requirement; and cohort and completion rates in elementary school; maternal mortality; access to reproductive health services; addressing gender equality in terms of political participation of women; and prevalence of HIV and AIDS.

With less than 500 days to meet the MDGs, we need to accelerate progress in 3 major areas, which are poverty and maternal health. Meanwhile, efforts have to be focused on boys to achieve gender equality in elementary and secondary education, as well as on reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

On the first goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, there is a medium probability that we will reduce by half the incidence of extreme poverty by 2015.

Income poverty in terms of poverty incidence has declined from 34.4 percent in 1991 to 25.2 percent in 2012, still far from the MDG target of 17.2 percent by 2015. Moreover, the rate of poverty reduction has been slow for the period of 2006 to 2012 with a reduction of only 1.4 percentage points. This may be due to natural calamities such as typhoons Ondoy, Pepeng, and Pablo, and economic shocks.

With regard to regional performance, the poverty situation in the regions has improved in 2012 where less regions registered poverty incidence within the range of 35.8 percent to 54.6 percent. NCR, Regions IV-A, III, II, I and CAR had relatively low poverty incidence, even lower than the national average. This may be due to generally higher standards of living in those regions, as shown by higher access to employment opportunities and basic social services. Meanwhile, the Bicol Region and most regions in Mindanao have a higher proportion of their population living below the poverty threshold.

Subsistence incidence among the population has improved from 12 percent in 2006 to 10.4 percent in 2012. This means that 1 out of every 10 Filipinos do not have income adequate enough to meet basic food requirements. It should also be noted that there was a 0.1 percentage point increase in the semestral estimates from 13.3 in 2009 to 13.4 in 2012.

Growth in employment contrasted with growth in economic output. In 2013, the GDP growth rate registered at 7.2 percent, while employment level growth rate was 0.8 percent.

This seemingly conflicting relationship can be attributed largely to the fact that one third of the country’s total labor force is employed in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, which accounts for the smallest GDP contribution, and is highly sensitive to weather disturbances.

The prevalence of underweight children under five years old decreased by 0.4 percentage points from 20.6 percent in 2008 to 20.2 percent in 2011. To meet the MDG target of halving the number of underweight children by 2015, we will need to reduce this figure by 6.6 percentage points, or about 1.65 percentage points per year from 2011 to 2015.

The proportion of Filipino households with inadequate calorie intake decreased from 74.2 percent in 1990 to 57 percent in 2006. However, the proportion increased by 9.9 percentage points from 2003 to 66.9 in 2008, far from the 2015 target of 37.1. Thus, to reach the MDG on halving levels of hunger in 2015, we need to reduce this number by 4 percentage points per year.

Let us move on to the second goal, achieving universal primary education.

Access to elementary education has improved from the situation in 1990. The country’s probability of attaining the 2015 target of 100 percent was elevated from low to high, due to the recomputation of the net enrolment ratio and gross enrolment rate data using the revised population projection based on 2.04 percent annual growth rate between 2000 and 2007 Censuses. For school year 2010-2011 to SY 2012-2013, the population is based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing provided by NSO.

Elementary participation rate or net enrolment ratio has steadily improved from a low of 83.2 percent in school year 2006-2007 to 95.2 percent in school year 2012-2013. This is a significant achievement as the country approaches the NER target of 100 percent by 2015. Following a similar trend is the gross enrolment rate (GER) which reached 113.7 percent in school year 2012-2013, from a low of 99.9 percent in SY 2006-2007.

While participation rate has improved, we have recently performed poorly in ensuring that all pupils stay in school and finish elementary education. Both the cohort survival rate and completion rate have generally improved since SY 1991-1992, despite the fluctuations. However, much needs to be done to achieve the 100 percent target by 2015.

On the third goal, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, the gender gap in education appears to be in favor of girls as far as participation in basic education is concerned. In terms of enrollment in the elementary level, girls have consistently maintained a higher proportion relative to boys. In terms of absolute numbers, the ratio of girls to boys in elementary education is consistently at less than 1.0 from 1996 to 2012.

Girls are also more likely to stay in school and finish schooling. They have consistently outperformed boys in terms of having higher cohort survival and completion rates in the elementary level.

On the third goal, promoting gender equality and women empowerment, the gender gap in education appears to be in favor of girls as far as participation in basic education is concerned. In terms of enrollment in the elementary level, girls have consistently maintained a higher proportion relative to boys. In terms of absolute numbers, the ratio of girls to boys in elementary education is consistently at less than 1.0 from 1996 to 2012.

Girls are also more likely to stay in school and finish schooling. They have consistently outperformed boys in terms of having higher cohort survival and completion rates in the elementary level.

Data also shows that for the past 12 years, consistently more females enrolled in tertiary education compared to males, from academic year 2000-2001 to AY 2011-2012.

On Goal 4, significant reductions in child mortality have been made.

From 1990 to 2011, under-five mortality declined from 80 deaths to 30 deaths per 1,000 live births. This is a good indication that we will meet the 2015 target of 26.7 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Infant deaths, or deaths of children below one year old, also decreased from 25 deaths per 1,000 live births to 22 deaths per 1,000 live births, close to the MDG target. Trends show that from 1993 to 2011, there was a slow decline in the reduction of neonatal deaths, or fatalities of infants 28 days from their birth, from 18 to 14 per 1,000 live births. However, it should be noted that 64% of infant deaths are categorized as neonatal deaths.

The Family Health Survey conducted for the period 2001-2011 shows that reduction in infant mortality rate has been slow, and that more infants die in rural areas than in urban areas. Thus, interventions on infant deaths should also focus on geographic location to ensure that we stay on track in terms of reducing child mortality.

Moving on to Goal number 5, the rate of reducing maternal deaths per 100,000 live births has been very slow. Thus, there is a low probability that we will meet this target by 2015.

Maternal deaths per 100,000 live births decreased from 209 in 1990 to 162 in 2006. However, based on the 2011 Family Health Survey, the maternal mortality rate increased again to 221 per 100,000 live births, making it unlikely that the MDG target of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births will be achieved. According to the Department of Health, most cases of maternal mortality are caused by delays in deciding to seek medical care; delays in reaching appropriate care; and delays in receiving care at health facilities.

The National Agenda to Accelerate the Achievement of MDG 5 highlights the following concerns: first, variations in access across geographical locations, which may be due to lack of health facilities and services as well as other socioeconomic factors; second, the continuing significant proportion of home births; third, inadequacies of the referral system; and fourth, non-utilization of health facilities due to lack of awareness and other barriers.

Similarly, data on the trends in contraceptive prevalence rate suggest that the target on universal access to reproductive health is unlikely to be achieved.

The contraceptive prevalence rate remained at about 50 percent from 1998 to 2011. From 2006 to 2011, the Contraceptive Prevalence Rate or CPR even decreased from 50.6 percent to 48.9 percent, still far from the 2015 target of 63 percent.

The prevalence rate for modern methods was roughly constant, while the rate for traditional methods decreased by 2.8 percentage points. In all regions, modern methods were more widely used than traditional methods regardless of educational attainment and women’s socioeconomic status. ARMM had the lowest contraceptive prevalence rate at 23.5 percent, while Davao Region had the highest at 56.3 percent.

Thus, the urgent implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law is crucial given the following reproductive health issues that the country is facing: (a) high fertility among poor and less educated women; (b) low contraceptive use and high unmet need for family planning; (c) high rate of unintended and unplanned pregnancies; (d) high rate of maternal deaths, and (e) rising rates of high-risk teenage pregnancies.

For Goal 6, based on the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry of the National Epidemiology Center (NEC), the number of cases doubled from 2,349 cases in 2011 to 4,814 cases in 2013. From 1984 to December 2013, there were a total 16,516 HIV Ab sero-positve cases reported to the Philippine HIV and AIDS Registry. The growing number of cases suggests that the infection has not been halted, and there is a low probability of achieving this target by 2015.

The malaria morbidity rate declined from 123 cases per 100,000 population in 1990 to 8.3 cases per 100,000 population in 2012. The malaria mortality rate likewise declined from 1.5 deaths per 100,000 population in 1990 to 0.01 per 100,000 population in 2012.

Tuberculosis is still one of the top causes of morbidity and mortality in the country, although the TB incidence rate decreased from 393 cases per 100,000 population in 1990 to 270 cases per 100,000 in 2011. The mortality rate for TB likewise declined from 58 deaths per 100,000 population in 1990 to 29 deaths per 100,000 population in 2011.

On Goal 7, the latest forestry data released by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Forest Management Bureau shows that the forest cover shrunk from 23.9 percent of the country’s total land area (7,162,560 hectares) in 2003 to 22.8 percent (6,839,718 hectares) in 2010. This indicates that the remaining forest covers are about 4.59 percent (328,682 hectares) less than the 2003 estimate. This can be attributed to the rate of consumption of forest products, through slash-and burn agriculture, charcoal making, and logging activities, far exceeding the rate of reforestation from 2003 to 2010.

As of 2010, the ratio of protected areas to maintain biological diversity to surface area, both terrestrial and marine protected areas, increased from 13.40 in 2005 to 14.05 in 2010, corresponding to an increase of 263 thousand hectares. Protected areas are classified as natural parks, protected landscapes and seascapes, natural monuments or landmarks, resource reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, natural biotic areas and marine reserves.

The proportion of families with access to safe water supply has consistently increased from 78.1 percent in 1998 to 84.4 percent in 2011. As early as 2007, the percentage of Filipinos with access to sanitary toilet facilities already reached 87.9%, surpassing the 2015 target of 86.9%. This further increased to 91.6% in 2011.

The proportion of urban population living in slum areas in the Philippines dropped from 54.3 percent in 1990 to about 40.9 percent in 2009. However, the magnitude of slum dwellers has steadily increased from 16.47 million in 1991 to about 18.30 million in 2009.

On the last major goal of developing global partnerships for development, data shows that Filipinos have become more connected with the rest of the world. For every 1000 Filipinos, 952 have subscribed to a cellular phone in 2011, which is a dramatic increase from just one Filipino in 1991. Filipinos are seen preferring cell phones over landlines as the number of telephone lines as a percentage of the population declined at 3.7 total compared to 2009’s 3.9.

A similar trend is seen on internet subscription, which rose from 500,000 in 2001 to 5.2 million in 2011.

Again, I would like to reiterate, we need to double our efforts in meeting the targets on income poverty, nutrition, education, gender equality, maternal mortaliy, access to reproductive health and reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS.

What are the two reports telling us?

First, despite the achievements in certain areas, there is still much that remains to be done to ensure that all Filipinos, especially the poor and vulnerable, reach their highest potentials for human development. While our numbers have been improving, this has been happening at a very slow rate to produce any dramatic impacts. We are also trailing behind many of our neighbors in Southeast Asia and in the developing world.

Second, the two reports affirm the urgent need to address inequality. If we can manage to reduce vulnerabilities and improve access to opportunities, we can greatly improve overall human development in the country.

What is not immediately apparent from the two reports is the existence of large disparities among different geographic areas. The national figures mask considerable disparities across regions, provinces, municipalities and barangays. Regions in Luzon tend to fare better than those in Visayas and Mindanao. Regions such as ARMM, the Bicol Region, Region 8 in Eastern Visayas, and 4-B in MIMAROPA, are lagging behind in many indicators and would need greater attention to catch up with the other regions.

The recommendations of the 2014 Human Development Report and the 2013 Philippine Progress Report on the MDGs, are in line with the strategies laid out in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 Midterm Update. The PDP Midterm Update recognizes the importance of improving human capabilities and reducing vulnerabilities in order to equalize development opportunities and achieve rapid and sustained economic growth; thus reducing poverty in multiple dimensions and creating quality employment.

The PDP Midterm Update recognizes the impact of geography on the quality of human life, as it facilitates or obstructs access to opportunities for improving people’s economic, social or political conditions. To speed up the achievement of inclusive growth, the PDP Midterm update recommends focusing government interventions on the following provinces: those with the highest number of the poor; those with the highest proportion of the poor; and those that are prone to multiple hazards, particularly natural disasters.

In coming up with these three categories, the PDP recognizes the need for specific strategies to address each category’s specific constraints. For instance, Category 1 provinces, or those with the highest number of the poor, require strategies to create more growth opportunities, provide skills training, facilitate employment, and encourage flexible work arrangements. For Category 2 provinces, or those with highest proportion of the poor, the priorities are to promote economic mobility of labor through human capital and infrastructure development, link residents to the value chain, and develop capability to respond to calamities and disasters. Meanwhile, for Category 3 or hazard prone provinces, there is a need to capacitate officials and residents on disaster risk-reduction strategies, promote income diversification, and expand social protection and insurance.

All of these strategies can also help significantly improve human development and MDG outcomes in these provinces.

Aside from these category-specific strategies, the government has also been implementing several programs and projects to improve human development and address vulnerabilities.

In the health sector, the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (KP) is the country’s main strategy for improving health status. Through KP, coverage and benefits under the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) will be increased. The NHIP covers the health insurance needs of poor families identified through the National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR), as well as those identified by LGUs (near-poor families, poor families from Category 1 provinces, indigenous peoples, street children, children from orphanages, persons with disability, internal migrants, among others).

In terms of enhancing knowledge and skills, the Universal Kindergarten and K to 12 Program are being implemented to align the country’s basic education system with international standards so that better opportunities for learning and employment will be ensured.

Through social insurance interventions such as social pension for poor senior citizens and PhilHealth for poor families, government is working to mitigate individual and life cycle risks among vulnerable households. During socioeconomic shocks, safety nets such as emergency employment programs, relief assistance and the Community-Based Employment Program (CBEP) are provided to vulnerable groups.

The government also has social welfare programs such as the Pantawid Pamilya Program, and disability and death benefits for migrant workers who are members of OWWA.

Because shelter is also associated with vulnerability and is an important dimension of social development, the housing sector is implementing programs such as the Community Mortgage Program (a housing program that assists legally organized association of residents in slum areas to own the lots they occupy), housing assistance for calamity victims, and housing programs for informal settler families.

Government also continues to implement the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services-National Community-Driven Development Program (KALAHI CIDSS-NCDDP), which aims to empower poor communities by letting them organize, analyze their own situation, and propose projects to address the problems they have identified.

To ensure that we promote full human development and achieve the MDGs, the following measures must be prioritized:

First, we must promote inclusive growth by generating new productive employment opportunities to ease the problems of unemployment, underemployment, vulnerable employment and poverty.

Second, we must implement well-designed and well-targeted safety nets to help families from falling into poverty especially in times of shocks. Implementing well-established safety nets immediately after a shock, can prevent the non-poor from falling into poverty, and prevent the poor from falling deeper into poverty.

Third, there is a need to fully implement the K to 12 Basic Education Program and eliminate shortages in school resources, while responding to the continuous growth in student population.

Fourth, there is a need to promote childbirth in health facilities, by addressing the barriers that prevent mothers from availing of health services. This requires an effective communication and advocacy plan, as well as upgrading of facilities and services, ensuring a good referral system, addressing socio-economic and cultural barriers; and fully implementing the reproductive health law.

Successful implementation of these priority interventions will require the following:

• Strengthening of service delivery, especially among local government units. For development to be more inclusive, the updated Philippine Development Plan (2011-2016) cited the need for broad-based growth and an integrated and locally anchored delivery of services, particularly at the provincial level, for living standards to attain geographical convergence.
• Effective and efficient budget execution, as well as implementation, monitoring and evaluation of appropriate programs and projects.
• Intensified and sustained efforts on population management, particularly improving access to family planning services and providing informed choices for couples to freely determine the number and spacing of their children.

There is also a need for greater MDG advocacy and localization, especially in regions and provinces where the MDGs are least likely to be achieved.

Clearly, the Human Development Reports and the Millennium Development Goals catalyzed numerous changes in our country. The two reports have provided us with the tools to identify not only the areas where we are doing well, but more importantly, those in which we need to exert greater effort. With less than 500 days remaining until the MDG deadline, we need to accelerate our efforts in order to fulfill our commitments to our fellow Filipinos, and to the world.

Thank you.