Sustainable development in the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016

This year, 2012, marks the culmination, if that is the right word, of the Agenda 21 and signatory countries’ reporting at Rio+20 Conference in June. In the country, Agenda 21 is localized into Philippine Agenda 21, and meant to be integrated in the national development plans.

The Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 outlines the national development imperatives, these being inclusive growth and poverty reduction. Inclusive growth is defined within the parameters of: massive investment in physical infrastructure; transparent and responsive government; human development; employment generation for both wage- and self-employed. These shall be monitored in terms of, “growth in output and employment through higher investment that in turn should lead to poverty incidence being cut by half.”

Reading through the plan parameters, I thought about the PA21 and how inclusive growth is aligned with sustainable development considering that inclusive growth in the PDP 2011-2016 means “first of all, growth that is rapid enough to matter, given the country’s large population, geographical differences, and social complexity” while sustainable development “involves both a transition and a paradigm shift to ecosystems-based actions.”

In the PDP, the state of the country’s environment and natural resources shows, “major urban centers are polluted,” “solid waste remains to be a major source of pollutant,” “water is becoming scarcer,” “quality of farmlands is deteriorating and forested lands are shrinking,” “the country’s unique biodiversity is under severe pressure,” “coastal and marine resources are under threat,” “mineral resource development is delivering mixed results,” and “extreme vulnerability to environmental hazards and climate-related risks.” These reflect an unsustainable “development” over the years. And we haven’t even started on the road to rapid development “that matter” yet!

The PDP 2011-2016 is supposedly guided by the PA 21, but I don’t see real integration and address. Strategic goals relative to sustainable development are along, improved conservation, protection and rehabilitation of natural resources; improved environmental quality for a cleaner and healthier environment; enhanced resilience of natural systems and improved adaptive capacities of human communities to cope with environmental hazards including climate related risks. The desired “transition and paradigm shift” is not evident, in that sustainable development goals were not designed along desired results of inclusive (economic) growth.

For instance, how would the country’s goal toward rapid economic development not get in the way of further destruction and degradation of natural resources and systems? How would the country achieve global competitiveness yet be a low emitter of carbon? How would the country’s remaining farmland attain its full capacity in production on low carbon and other greenhouse gases? How would the country’s use of energy, forecasted and expected to grow along with rapid economic growth, contained within ‘smart’ limits? How would the country’s increasing population growth managed along the principle of (the land’s) carrying capacity? How would increasing consumerism, inevitable by-product of market economies, not produce massive increase in waste? What is the role of the country’s culture – good Filipino values, attitudes and practices – and minorities – children, women and indigenous people – in sustainable development? These are the core concerns of sustainable development yet the plan is silent on these. In fact these are the lessons to be gained from the journey made by developed countries now in the attainment of their industrialized status. Of inclusive growth, the discourse of sustainable development would say ‘inclusive’ planning would have to use the lens of the natural world and put natural resources, not just humans, at the center of economic growth.

If the current PDP was really influenced by principles in sustainable development, it would be an altogether different plan. In any case, there ought to be a review of the strategies after the first implementation year. A plan after all is not cast in stone.

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