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Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Monday, December 17, 2007

'Collapsing' Filipino middle class

here's a sensible article I read yesterday on the way back from Tagaytay. Indeed, some programs should be devoted to the middle class who actually move things and keep the cycle going in this country- they're the majority of consumers who patronize the big businesses of the rich, and they're the ones who consistently and regularly "fund" the government with the taxes from their income automatically withheld.
Read on...
Last updated 03:59:00 12/16/2007

MANILA, Philippines--DESPITE economic growth, the number of middle class Filipinos and their share of the national income pie have shrunk.

The signs of a shrinking middle class are plain to see. Many professionals, from medical practitioners to executives, continue to migrate to developed countries such as the United States, Canada and Australia in search of greener pastures.

They are joined by a record number of Filipinos working abroad because of the poor pay and bleak employment picture in the country.

Another sign is the growing number of students transferring from private schools to public schools because of spiraling tuition.

The rising cost of goods and services, partly as a result of high fuel prices, is further eroding the living standards of middle-class families.

A study by Romulo Virola, Mildred Addawe and Ma. Ivy Querubin of the National Statistical Coordination Board found thatf there was at least a 2-percentage-point decline in the population share of the middle class between 2000 and 2003.

They also found a 4.6-percentage-point drop in the number of middle-class families with overseas-Filipino-worker members.

Antipoverty? How about pro-middle class?

By Dr. Romulo A. Virola

WE ALL KNOW THAT the overarching goal of our development efforts is to reduce poverty. Toward this end, many programs and policies have been formulated, implemented and monitored over the years. Surely, there are improvements here and there, but the pace of progress just does not seem fast enough. In fact, per the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) monitoring by the National Statistical Coordination Board, we only have a medium probability of attaining our target to halve poverty by 2015! Why? Is something wrong with the implementation of these programs or are our poverty reduction strategies simply ill-conceived?

Generally, it is believed that, for a country to be truly and sustainably prosperous, there must be a broad-based middle class that serves as a stabilizing influence on society.


A middle class that has the knowledge, the skills and the resources to foster economic growth and help generate employment for the poor. But so far, the poverty reduction programs we have crafted have focused mainly on being 'pro-poor," 'antipoverty," helping the 'poorest provinces," etc.

We seem to have completely ignored the needs of and the strategic importance of building and expanding the middle class of Philippine society. Thus, while we all agree to want to help the poorest of the poor, a strategy that pays attention to the middle class may be more effective in achieving our MDG goal to halve poverty by 2015! It is then of interest to find out what is happening to the Pinoy middle class.

Petty bourgeoisie

And just who constitutes this middle class? Does it include those of us who love to be seen spending precious moments at the gym either to make chismis (gossip) or para makahanap ng gf or bf (to find a girlfriend or boyfriend), in other words, para makahanap ng mabibiktima (find someone to victimize)? Or those of us who go to the golf course and watch our handicap soar to new heights each day?

The noisy minority perhaps, who complain about many things and everything, instead of counting their blessings? Or the intellectuals that many of us think we are, the petit bourgeoisie, the Doña Victorina, Angelika Santibañez, Ariel and Maverick or whoever we and Inday can relate to?

In the United States, ideological and economic theories consider the middle class consisting of all those who are neither 'poor" nor 'rich," or being a relative elite of professionals and managers, defined by lifestyle and influence.

Debate on definition

Sometimes, the middle class is defined simply as the statistical middle class, meaning those whose income is in the middle of the income distribution, like the middle 50 percent. No matter if the statistical middle class cannot afford the so-called middle-class lifestyle--government statisticians cannot! But surely, the debate will continue as to what constitutes the middle class.

During the 10th National Convention on Statistics held on Oct. 1-2, we wrote and presented a paper titled 'Trends and Characteristics of the Middle-Income Class in the Philippines: Is it Expanding or Shrinking?" [Virola's co-writers were Mildred B. Addawe and Ma. Ivy T. Querubin.]


The paper attempted to define the middle class in terms of income and in terms of socioeconomic characteristics. Using cluster analysis and multiple regression on data from the Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES) of the National Statistics Office, the paper provided a glimpse of a possibly collapsing middle class of Philippine society.

The following results were obtained:

The middle-income class may be defined as those families who, in 2007, have total annual income ranging from P251, P283 to P2,045,280. In terms of socioeconomic characteristics, the middle-income families are those who meet all of the following requirements: 1. whose housing unit is made of strong roof materials; 2. who own a house and lot; 3. who own a refrigerator; and 4. who own a radio.

The general population spent the most in the following expenditure items: 1. food, 46.58 percent; 2. housing and repairs, 16.80 percent; 3. transportation and communication, 7.52 percent; 4. fuel, light and water, 6.95 percent; and 5. education, 3.83 percent. The expenditure items with the least shares are 1. recreation, 0.38 percent; 2. other miscellaneous items, 1.04 percent; 3. tobacco, 1.19 percent; 4. household operations, 1.23 percent; and 5. household furnishing and equipment, 1.76 percent.

No conspicuous spending

On the other hand, it is good to note that the middle-income class does not seem to favor a lifestyle of conspicuous consumption. Its top expenditure items are 1. food; 2. house rent; 3. transportation and communication; 4. fuel, light and water; and 5. education. The expenditure items with the least shares are 1. nondurable furnishings; 2. alcoholic beverages; (obviously, the middle class has no passion, despite Iza Calzado); 3. tobacco (which Lucio Tan may not like); 4. recreation; and 5. house maintenance and minor repairs. (See Table 1.)

While the Filipino middle class shrank only a little between 1997 and 2000, there was at least a 2-percentage-point decrease in the population share of the middle class between 2000 and 2003. (See Table 2.)

The number of middle-income families actually increased from 1997 to 2000, but decreased from 2000 to 2003. (See Table 3.)

Expanding low-income class

The percentage share of both the middle- and high-income classes shrank between 1997 and 2000, as well as between 2000 and 2003, resulting in an expanding low-income class in Philippine society.

As of 2003, less than 1 in 100 families belongs to the high income class; about 20 are middle income and 80 are low income. Thus, in a span of six years from 1997 to 2003, for every 100 middle-income families, three families were lost to the low-income category.

Of course, it must be stressed that the low-income class is not necessarily poor, but this trend maybe the basis when people (the middle class?) complain that they do not feel the impact of the economic progress that the country has achieved in recent years. (See Table 3.)

Preliminary results of the 2006 FIES seem to indicate a continuation of the pattern. The good news is that the ratio of the income of the richest 30 percent to that of the poorest 30 percent and the ratio of the income of the richest 10 percent to that of the poorest 10 percent has gone down.

In addition, the Gini coefficient has improved from 0.4605 in 2003 to 0.4564 in 2006, indicating an income distribution that is getting slightly more equitable. The bad news is that the income share of the families in the fifth to the seventh deciles has gone down, meaning that the income share of some of the middle-class families has shrunk. (See Table 4.)


Although the middle-income class has expanded in countries like China and India, this phenomenon of a collapsing middle class is present in other countries. For example, Wikipedia cites statistics about the shrinking American middle class as well: over the past two decades, the number of American households in the middle half of the income distribution decreased from 48.2 percent to 44.3 percent!

Indeed, it is a challenge to our development planners to do something about and for the middle class. We can no longer ignore the seemingly systematic shrinking of the group of professionals and skilled workers who can spell the difference between us being mired in poverty or crossing over to the league of First World countries by 2020.

But then, if the Pinoy middle class is truly shrinking, why are spas burgeoning? Or why does business at Starbucks seem to be sizzling? And our neighbors at Rustan's always a-rushing? Maybe we are spending just much more than we can afford?

Have a Merry Christmas!

(Dr. Romulo A. Virola is the secretary general of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and chair of the Statistical Research and Training Center. He holds a Ph. D. in Statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, USA and has taught Mathematics and Statistics at the University of the Philippines. This article first appeared in Virola's column, 'Statistically Speaking," on the NSCB website on Dec. 10. He can be contacted at

Monday, December 10, 2007

International Human Rights Day - Back to Black

(Photo culled from Inquirer.Net)

Today is International Human Rights Day.

Unresolved extrajudicial killings. Sudden disappearances. Ignored Sumilao Farmers.

A DENR Secretary who embraces Overpopulation. A child taking her own life because of poverty and abuse. The media arrested for covering news and current events. Curfew imposed. A President proceeding with her international travel despite the ongoing threat of rebellion and sedition.

The value of PESO increasing but oil prices continue to rise. The list goes on and on...

Today is a day of mourning. "Back to Black".

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The World focuses on the HIV and AIDS pandemic

The fight against HIV and AIDS take its peak with the onset of WORLD AIDS DAY, celebrated every December 1st.

Read on. Thanks to Dino. =) This sums up his media monitor for UNFPA.
Manila Standard Today / 30 November

THE First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS sponsored by the Philippine Senate with over 200 foreign delegates, went on uninterrupted at the Manila Hotel while the Makati City turmoil was going on.

But Senate President Manuel Villar expressed sadness that the Makati incident had caused embarrassment as it happened while the Philippines was hosting an international affair.

"It was quite difficult to perform our duties so that the image of the country would not be besmirched in the eyes of the delegates," Villar told newsmen.

He said no security problem surfaced during the day-long session yesterday although the delegates to the confab must have been advised by the respective embassies in Manila about the turmoil in Makati.

The Makati incident had dissuaded newsmen from covering the press conference at the Manila Hotel where Villar, Inter-Parliamentary Union secretary-general Andres Johnsson and the United Nations' secretary-general special envoy on AIDS for Asia and the Pacific Nafis Sadik were to discuss the recommendations of the three-day conference which is scheduled to end today.

Villar said Antonio Trillanes, despite being a member of the Senate, did not bother to communicate with any of his fellow senators after he and the other accused in the 2003 Oakwood mutiny walked out of their court trial.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri had suggested to the Senate leadership that Senator Gregorio Honasan be dispatched to the Manila Peninsula hotel to negotiate with Trillanes and his group for their peaceful surrender.

But Villar said that he could not send Honasan or any other senator in the absence of any request from Trillanes. Fel V. Maragay

IPU mulls anti-AIDS laws, criminalizing HIV transmission
Christina Mendez / Thursday, November 29, 2007 / Philippine Star
Lawmakers belonging to the International Parliamentary Union (IPU), including Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., vowed that the legislative bodies of 147 countries will become more involved in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In his keynote address at the opening ceremonies of the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS at Manila Hotel yesterday, Villar called on the world's parliamentarians to get their acts together and help address the spread of HIV/AIDS, which he described as a global threat.

"As members of parliament, we are in a unique position because we can make important legislative decisions that have powerful effects on the lives of people," Villar said.

IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson and Michel Sidibe, deputy executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), agreed with Villar about the necessity of deeply involving legislators in containing the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Johnsson said the IPU members should make concrete recommendation to governments to ensure that all victims of the deadly virus will have complete access to drugs and medication. He added that IPU delegates are looking into the possibility of enjoining member countries to craft legislation that would criminalize the "infection" of HIV/AIDS virus. They expect to come up with the position by the end of the three-day conference on Friday.

Both Johnsson and Sidibe admitted that lawmakers should work closely on how to help HIV/AIDS patients have access to proper treatment by 2010.

"We are also confronted with the challenges of long-held biases, prejudices, and social barriers that impede efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. As lawmakers, we can craft laws aimed at tearing down the social barriers that accompany the trial of living with HIV/AIDS," Villar said.

Villar exhorts international lawmakers to fight HIV / AIDS
Manila Bulletin / 29 November

Senate President Manuel Villar yesterday underscored the need to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic even as he lauded the participation of more than 200 delegates from 55 countries in the first global parliamentary meeting on HIV/AIDS which opened yesterday at the Manila Hotel.

"Our presence here today manifests our deep concern and unwavering commitment to address this global threat. Through this meeting, we are sending a strong and clear signal that we, parliamentarians, are serious in our quest for concrete solutions that would considerably reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS worldwide," Villar said in his keynote address yesterday.

Villar said the infectious disease does not consider economic status and social standing. "It is cruel and merciless. If it remains unchecked, it can wipe out a generation, ravage countries and demolish all our economic gains in the 21st century," he said.

Villar cited the latest AIDS Epidemic Update released by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) which showed that there are now 33.2 million people stricken with the deadly disease worldwide.

"Of these, 2.5 million are children under 15 years old. AIDS claimed the lives of 2.1 million people this year, including 330,000 children below 15 years old, Villar said.

In addition, 6,800 new infections and over 5,700 deaths are recorded each day due to AIDS, the UNWHO report said. Every hour, at least 40 children die from AIDS.

"As a father and lawmaker, I find this very alarming. The children are our future,'' Villar said. "But what does the future hold for this world if we are slowly but surely steadily losing our children to AIDS? How can we protect them in order that we may likewise protect the future of our world?''

Villar sees no universal solution to the HIV/AIDS problem. "We must adopt a best-fit approach to suit each country's specific conditions and requirements in order that appropriate laws be passed. We can draw up a national response to this pandemic that matches the needs and concerns of our respective countries," he said.

He also pointed to the high cost of medicines for AIDS and called on pharmaceutical companies to make the drugs, and vaccines affordable and accessible to people with HIV, especially in developing countries.

"We are also confronted with the challenges of longheld biases, prejudices, and social barriers that impede efforts to prevent the spread of the disease. As lawmakers, we can craft laws aimed at tearing down the social barriers that accompany the trial of living with HIV/AIDS," he said.

Villar added that there was an urgent need to strengthen the country's poverty-alleviation efforts and to intensify the AIDS awareness campaign, especially among the youth and migrant workers.

"At the Philippine Senate, I am pleased to report that we are y working on two HIV/AIDS-related measures. The first aims to facilitate the development of microbes to prevent transmitted diseases, including HIV-AIDS. The second measure, seeks to provide counseling and testing of pregnant women and newborn infants for HIV infection," Villar said.

The Senate President also cited the achievement of the 1992 ASEAN Task Force of coming up with two declarations to combat HIV/AIDS, including the one which was spearheaded by the Philippines and eventually adopted in Cebu City during the 12th ASEAN summit special session on HIV/AIDS in 2006.

"We must also ensure that resources are properly allocated in order to launch an effective response to HIV/AIDS, especially in the areas of education, prevention, care and support. It is said that the fairest criterion for allocation is need. Those who have the greatest need have the strongest claim to services. This advocacy role is paramount as we launch a stronger crusade against HIV/AIDS on national and international levels," Villar said.

He expressed optimism that the Manila meeting of parliamentarians would result in concrete strategies and initiatives that strengthen existing ones to help governments deal with the global health problem of HIV/AIDS in time for the marking of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

Also present during yesterday's opening ceremonies were House Speaker Jose de Venecia, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, International Parliamentary Union SecretaryGeneral Anders Johnson, UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe and Roberto Ruiz, board member of Positives Action Foundation, Phils. Inc.

GMANews.TV, 'i-Witness' bring home top PopDev Awards
11/28/2007 12:57 AM

GMA Network took home three trophies from this year's Annual PopDev Media Awards after a series of stories by GMANews.TV was judged "Best in News Reportage Writing" and a report by the public affairs show "i-Witness" was named "Best TV Documentary." A collection of photographs by GMANews.TV's photo editor also got a citation for photo essay.

A series of election stories - "Birth control issue killing bets' chances," "Current issues drown out campaign noise" and "GO, TU in mud fight" - written by Abraham "Abe" Cerojano were judged "Best in News Reportage Writing."

The committee conferred the award "for making a significant difference in the amount and accuracy of public knowledge of population and human development issues affecting the Filipinos from October 1, 2006 to August 15. 2007."

The board of judges for the print and online categories - Rep. Edcel Lagman, Jose Favia of the Philippine Press Institute, Prof. Luis Teodoro of the UP College of Mass Communication/Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and Inquirer columnist Rina Jimenez-David - met on November 6 to decide on the final winning entries.

Named runners up in the same category were stories that also appeared on GMANews.TV: "Poverty, hunger as poll issues;" "GO smells scam in P1-B anti-hunger fund;" "19 Days to E-Day: Money talks anew" by Cerojano; and "Bird flu alert up;" "Saan ihihimlay ang mga namatay?" and "The El Niño Phenomenon" by GMA Network's News Research department.

Joe Galvez, GMANews.TV's photo editor, got a citation for his photo essay "Living in a Canned World."

"P 36," a documentary by Jay Taruc for "i-Witness," was named "Best TV Documentary" while "Pop Culture" also of "i-Witness" was runner up in the same category.

The Annual Media Awards was held at the Traders Hotel in Pasay City on Tuesday.

The Awards is undertaken by the Philippine Legislators' Committee and the United Nations Population Fund through its 6th Country Programme.

Now on its third year, the Awards pays tribute to print, broadcast and online media practitioners who have produced, published and aired "responsible and exemplary news and feature articles and programs on population and development" during the year.

The Awards also aims to encourage the media to actively examine population and development issues that affect the country's development, and to heighten public awareness and knowledge on population and development issues.

The other winners are:

A. Print Category

Best in News Reportage Writing

Winner: Linette C. Ramos, Sun.Star Cebu, "LGUs told: Invest more in schools;" "Stop trafficking, porn: officials told;" "9,000 households in Cebu City still use unsanitary toilet facilities;" and "Gov't told to end malnutrition"

Runners up:

Jujemay G. Awit, Sun.Star Cebu, "Popcom urges parents to go back to school;" "Dads reminded to keep promise;" "Poll bets fear backlash, shun family planning issues;" "Abortion on the rise: survey"

Ira P. Pedrasa, BusinessWorld, "Migration affecting quality of voting population-economis ts;" "Exit tax pressed for leaving professionals; " "Poor get raw end of deal in urban migration;" and "Informed choice slowing down annual population growth rate"

Best in Investigative Reporting

Winner: Mayette Q. Tabada, Rene H. Martel, Rianne C. Tecson, Jujemay G. Awit, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Sun.Star Cebu, "Surviving Aging" (1st Part: "Plight of elderly;" "Debate rages on drug discounts;" 2nd Part: "Going herbal, generic, capitalist;" "Waiting for that pension check;" 3rd Part: "Bumps in travel, but not a peep heard;" "Livelihood programs many, but takers among elderly few;" Last Part: "Second wind; Bread for the aged; Enforce the law")

Runners up

Mayette Q. Tabada, Rianne C. Tecson, Jujemay G. Awit, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Sun.Star Cebu, "Hidden Scourge" (1st Part: "Passing it on;" "Not the usual suspect;" "Living with HIV in Cebu" 2nd Part: "Condoning condom;" "Epidemic of fallacies;" "Flavored, ribbed, dotted;" Last Part: "Damage control;" "On guard;" "'Be responsible'")

Liberty A. Pinili, Jeanette P. Malinao, Linette C. Ramos, Cherry Ann T. Lim, Rianne C. Tecson, Mayette Q. Tabada, Sun.Star Cebu, "Is the well running dry?" (1st Part: "What lies beneath;" "Drill weary;" 2nd Part: "A long walk;" "How safe is trucked, bottled water?;" "High and dry" 3rd Part: "Watershed guardian;" "Saving on a rainy day;" "Cebuanos drinking recycled sewage water;" Last Part: "United they must stand;" "Here, there and everywhere;" "Crossing lines")

Best in Opinion Writing

Winner: Rene Ezpeleta Bartolo, The Mindanao Times, "A little less of everything"

Runners up

Julia Careeon-Lagoc, The News Today, Iloilo City, "A brighter day for little Jane"

Rene Ezpeleta Bartolo, The Mindanao Times, "What do we want, really?"

B. Online Category

Best in Investigative Reporting

Winner: Frank Cimatu, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Sex, Laws and Video Nights"

Runners up

Red Batario, Girlie Alvarez, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Postcards from the Road Back"

Lala Ordonez-Cascolan, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "A Mother's Breastfeeding Story"

Best in Opinion Writing

Winner: Samira Gutoc, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Confronting Peace, Battling Stereotypes"

Runners up

Maytet Diokno-Pascual, Clarence Pascual, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Walking on a Knife's Edge"

Alecks Pabico, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "The Philippines, Now a 'Second World' Country?"

C. Broadcast Category

Best Radio Production

Winner: PAKSA – DZMM, "Populasyon Sa Pilipinas Paano Ito Makokontrol"

Runners up

Population Special Report, DZMM, "Populasyong Mabilis ang Paglobo, Ano nga ba ang Benepisyo at Sakripisyo?"

Imbestigador, DXGM Super Radyo Davao City, "Series of commentaries on population"

Best TV Documentary

Runner up

Bantay OCW: Special Edition, "Helen"

Citation for Single Photo: Jose Enrique Soriano, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, "Indisputable Hunger"

Citation for Editorial Cartoon: Josua S. Cabrera, Sun.Star Cebu, "Too many mouths to feed"

The Awards has been given with the collaboration of the Commission on Population, Employers' Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, Konrad Adenauer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University, Philippine NGO Council on Population, Health and Welfare, Forum for Family Planning and Development, Philippine Center on Population and Development. - GMANews.TV


Opinion / Health News and Views / Dr. A.G. Romualdez / Malaya / 29 November

Increased investments in health

The 2008 General Appropriations Bill includes P19.6 billion for the Department of Health. This is an extraordinary increase of 87 percent from the DOH 2007 budget of P10.5 billion.

The only other time that the DOH was given more money by Congress was in 1993 when the late Senator Arturo Tolentino restored 10 billion pesos from an overestimated loan payment program to a DOH budget that had been decimated by the implementation of the Local Government Code. At that time the restoration was a god-send and literally saved people's lives by enabling the DOH to implement health programs that newly empowered LGUs were not quite ready to pursue..

Unfortunately, to paraphrase a popular saying, "every silver lining has a dark cloud." Health financing experts familiar with the DOH spending record are apprehensive that the department may not have the absorptive capacity for such a large funding increase. Obsessed with preventing leakages (in the form of corruption or unnecessary spending), the department's processes and procedures have placed so many obstacles to spending that it has already been forced to return significant amounts in the form of unspent balances to the national treasury for the current budget year.

The silver lining is that DOH has had a working blueprint for appropriate spending since 1999 when it formulated a comprehensive health sector reform agenda. Also, for the last three years, the DOH has also developed a viable mechanism to implement this agenda labeled Formula One and accepted by the international donor community. These instruments should in fact constitute guidelines to help reduce the glaring inequities that up to now characterize the Philippines' health sector.

There is one pitfall that government health institutions should avoid at all costs if the bonanza materializes. Whenever funding for health is significantly increased the primary beneficiaries are commonly the health providers (or the supply side) in the form of cost increases for currently available services. A good example of this is the increase in reimbursement rates by PhilHealth. Beneficiaries were not at all affected by this in the form of better or more services because health facilities (both private and public) simply raised their charges to accommodate the increased payments.

For this reason, DOH should ensure that increased investments in quality health services (whether curative or preventive) target quality improvements specifically for the poor. All services in government facilities should also be free without distinction as to capacity to pay. DOH should lead the way by completely banning all billing except perhaps for high-end room accommodations.

During the last seven years, the DOH budget has been lopsided in favor of large, mainly Metro Manila-based curative facilities. This expenditure pattern has aggravated the situation of inequity in health care access and availability because of the resultant under-funding of public health and other approaches that specifically target the country's low income population.

With the added resources, DOH has the means to address priority health problems such as maternal and child health and infectious diseases. It should now emphasize multi-year budgeting to ensure continuity and sustainability. This should give the country a chance to meet its communicable disease control and millennium development goal targets in time.

Given this opportunity, DOH should also develop programs to meet the anticipated problems of degenerative diseases. Diabetes, heart disease, cancer and other "diseases of development" can be expected to hit hardest the poorest segments of the population. As well, the recent report of the UN intergovernmental panel on climate change should alert the health sector to the likelihood of health problems linked to environmental degradation. This may be an area where the added funds for DOH may be put to good use.

Preventive approaches for these diseases are basically behavioral. With the new funding, the health sector should expect to provide the public with correct and appropriate information about health matters. These should be geared towards counteracting the misinformation contained in almost all commercially-oriented marketing and advertising of health goods and services.

In the area of maternal and child health, priority should be given to increasing breast-feeding rates, prevention of unwanted pregnancies, good ante-natal care, and installing capacities for emergency obstetrical care.

Indeed many good things can be achieved by increased government spending on health. Even if in terms of the overall national budget, the DOH share comprises only 1.6 percent, if wisely spent, it will go a long way to correcting the inequity that has long plagued the health sector. But all this assumes that the present government is sincerely pro-poor and not just trying improving its image by this significant but still small added investment in social development.

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Editorial / Manila Bulletin / 29 November
First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV / AIDS at the historic landmark Manila Hotel

A few days before the observance of World AIDS Day, parliamentarians from around the world gathered in Manila starting yesterday for the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS.

The legislators will discuss and commit to undertake action to prevent, cure, and assist those who have been affected by the global pandemic. The First Global Parliamentary Meeting carries the theme "Leadership and Parliaments in Combating HIV/AIDS."

The three-day meeting, being held at the historic landmark Manila Hotel, is designed to enlist the full force of the world's legislatures in the fight against the AIDS pandemic. There have been a number of national and regional parliamentary initiatives in this area but never before have the world's parliamentary leaders been convened to discuss the part they have to play in responding to the crisis.

The meeting will tackle a full range of crucial issues that members of parliaments face while performing their legislative, budgetary, oversight, and advocacy functions in connection with Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS). It will bring together specialists from all over the world who will share their expertise in discussion sessions with the representatives of national parliaments.

The meeting will also see the launch and discussion of a handbook for parliamentarians "Taking Action against HIV and AIDS," a document that devotes its largest section to some of the most important legal and policy issues that governments have to address as they scale up access to prevention, treatment, care, and support for HIV/AIDS vulnerable groups and victims. The objective of the handbook is to assist parliamentarians to become leaders, take action, and make decisions on HIV-related law and policy reform. The Global Meeting will also be looking at universal access and the question of affordability of drugs. Delegates will discuss an IPU position paper designed to help parliaments legislate in this difficult area.

Led by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Advisory Group on HIV/AIDS, a group of parliamentarians set up in 2006, the meeting will discuss issues that include Stigma and Discrimination: What Can Members of Parliament Do? Legislation and Criminalization of Transmission Issues, and Powers of Oversight to Tailor Government Budgets More Closely to HIV/AIDS Needs.

We congratulate participants and organizers of the First Global Parliamentary Meeting on HIV/AIDS and wish them all the success in their endeavors. To the foreign delegates, we wish them a fruitful and enjoyable stay in the Philippines.