By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, May 15, 2023; Business World
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it cannot support a proposal to create a Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) council, noting that a subcommittee is currently tasked with overseeing the SDGs.
“The NEDA is not entirely supportive of the creation of the council, in view of the fact there is already in place a subcommittee on SDGs that is directly under the Development Budget and Coordination Committee (DBCC),” NEDA Head of Secretariat to the Subcommittee on Sustainable Development Goals Reverie Pure G. Sapaen said at a hearing at the House of Representatives on Monday.
“This is also in keeping with our effort to streamline the functions of interagency bodies. Therefore, it is suggested that the current institutional set up be maintained to facilitate the achievement of the SDGs,” she added.
She was asked to provide NEDA’s views on House Bill No. 5092, which proposed the creation of the SDG council.
The proposed council will provide “strategic direction on the attainment of the SDGs in conjunction with the whole-of-nation approach and all other government strategies in place,” according to the bill.
It also aims to establish an evaluation and reward system for achieving the goals.
Ms. Sapaen said that “the subcommittee on SDGs, which is chaired by NEDA and co-chaired by the Department of Budget and Management, performs the following functions: assists in the coordination of SDGs through quarterly meetings with relevant stakeholders, and recommends to the DBCC and NEDA policies and projects related to meeting the SDGs consistent with national development priorities,” she said.
“Given these existing mechanisms, it is our view that the creation of the SDG council will no longer be necessary, considering the similarity of the current committee in place,” she said.
Agusan del Norte Rep. Dale B. Corvera said “There’s no focus” in the subcommittee’s operations. “There should be a council to focus on efforts to achieve the goals. There should be a council with an expanded membership. The SDGs affect a wide array of areas of human development. Agencies concerned should be members,” he said.
Leyte Rep. Richard I. Gomez also called for the regularization of voluntary reporting on progress made towards meeting the SDGs, which he said should be personally presented by the NEDA Secretary before Congress.
“We want the Secretary to report to us so we can keep track of the funds they use from Congress. (It should be) on an annual basis,” he said.
Ms. Sapaen said that it was also not necessary for NEDA to appear annually before the Congress to report on the SDGs.
“The SDG goals have been mainstreamed and integrated in the current Philippine Development Plan. The strategies are in place to accelerate the achievement of the goals. On the reporting requirement, every three years the Philippine has committed to report via the voluntary national review,” she said.
She also noted that the Philippine Statistics Authority assesses progress towards the SDGs via a pace of progress report, which is regularly updated.
“We also recognize with barely seven years left, the impetus to accelerate the implementation of SDG is right before our eyes. We do recognize the purpose of establishing the council. Our position is coming from the point of streamlining agency functions with respect to our secretariat functions,” Ms. Sapaen said.
She also noted that NEDA is not the implementing agency for the SDGs.
“We have the implementing agencies that carry out the projects and programs that will (achieve) the goals. For our part, as secretariat, we have been steering policies and other conversations,” she said.
“The programs are up to the agencies. There is also a regional body that works on SDG implementation on that level. In terms of localizing effort, we also have that body in place. The NEDA is very cognizant of this approach; we have adapted this to SDG implementation,” she added.
The Asia-Pacific region is expected to miss 90% of its SDGs by 2030, according to a recent report by the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.