By Melo M. Acuña

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, enshrined in the Asean Vision 2025, underscores the common aspiration of giving the region’s people “a higher quality of life” where they are free from hunger, poverty and conflict and enjoy their fundamental freedoms and rights.

Speaking before the 4th Asean Statistical Forum at Crowne Plaza Manila Galleria on Thursday, Pernia said the region had reached significant milestones in poverty eradication, improvement of maternal health and the promotion of gender equality, with the Philippines proudly taking part in the community’s efforts to improve the well-being of its people.

“In the Philippines, we face income inequality, unemployment insecurity, environmental degradation and increasing disaster risk that have challenged us more and more. Each problem seems to grow a limb, as we find solutions to eradicate them,” he said.  

He cited the “missing middle class,” which he described as those who lack basic services despite increases in income.

While acknowledging the difficulties and complexity of development concerns, Pernia, the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, highlighted the need for collaboration and cooperation among Asean member-countries.

“We need to move as one and utilize our individual strengths to find innovative and transformative solutions that will identify linkages and address the root cause of each problem that we face,” he said.

He called on conference participants to collect and generate data that “allows for a deeper analysis of the challenges individually and as a regional community,” allowing policymakers to formulate well-informed and evidence-based policy decisions to solve economic, environmental, and social issues, some of which cannot be handled by one country alone.

Pernia said the Asean community should exchange notes on best practices in data collection, management and reporting as members needed to be familiar with technologies to produce high-quality and timely statistics.

He stressed the need to have comparable indices to track progress in achieving development goals.

“In the Philippines, we have started using the multidimensional poverty index which may be adopted by Asean as a whole,” he said.

Statistics would be required to see the extent of development in the poorest provinces of Brunei-Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines – East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), he noted.

Pernia said there was also a need to further disaggregate and increase the frequency and comparability of official statistics as initiatives like the Core Sustainable Development Goals Asean indicators will contribute to identifying development gaps, aside from monitoring regional progress on sustainable development goals.

“To make all of these possible, we need to strengthen our statistical agencies by increasing technical and financial support for statistical capacity building,” he said.