PLCPD celebrated last November 25 its 25th Founding Anniversary at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Ortigas, with the theme “Expanding choices, uplifting lives: Celebrating 25 years of advocacy on population and human development.”
PLCPD Chairperson for the House of Representatives Rep. Bellaflor J. Angara-Castillo, opened the program and welcomed the guests. Her welcome remarks was followed by a short presentation on past successes of PLCPD, delivered by PLCPD Vice Chairperson for Luzon Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat and first Executive Director Mr. Benjamin de Leon. Former Rep. Josie Joson, in her message on milestones in advocacy, recalled the lessons learned from the early years in the struggle for the reproductive health (RH) bill, as well as from advocating other issues in the organization’s policy agenda.
In his keynote address, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. lauded his colleagues in both houses of Congress for championing policies on population and human development. He congratulated in particular Rep. Edcel Lagman for being one of the most indefatigable champions of RH bill. He stressed further that “Sustainable human development is important. We have to take much better care of our women and children, and the poor and the vulnerable of our society.”
Rep. Lagman, who led the ceremonial toast, shared a few anecdotes from the last few years of the RH struggle as well as the lessons that can be applied in other advocacy issues.
Another highlight of the event was the awarding of the Human Development Legislator: Lifetime Achievement Award led by Reps. Luz Ilagan and Susan Yap, Vice Chairperson for Mindanao and Secretary. Former Senator Leticia Ramos-Shahani, PLCPD’s founding chairperson, was bestowed the honor for her tireless work in championing population and human development causes.
Committed to continue its advocacy of improving the quality of life of the Filipino in the next 25 years and beyond, PLCPD also launched the initial plans for the Human Development Center which will house future studies and host events on population and human development. The launch was led by Reps. Angara-Castillo and Linabelle Ruth Villarica and past and current Executive Directors RobertoAdor and Romeo Dongeto. PLCPD Vice Chairperson for Visayas Rep. Sharon Garin, on one hand, spoke on PLCPD’s current priorities and plans for the future.
In his closing remarks, PLCPD Vice Chairperson for the Senate Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara urged his colleagues to continue what PLCPD has done in the last quarter century.
It was a night full of reminiscing, attended by past and current PLCPD members, past and current members of the Secretariat, friends and partners in the civil society and the international development community.
Founded in 1989, PLCPD is an organization of national lawmakers who work together in advocating policies to advance population and human development in the country. The organization has advocated legislation in the areas of children’s rights, education, environment, fiscal reforms, governance, human rights, public health, rural development, and women’s rights, among others.
Members of PLCPD who are also the authors of the bill seeking to strengthen the response to the expanding HIV epidemic in the country by amending the AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998 or RA 8504 are calling on the Department of Health (DOH) to enforce stricter and more effective strategies in addressing the epidemic, underscoring the importance of voluntary HIV counseling and testing, amid DOH’s proposal to make HIV testing compulsory.
Ako Bicol Party List Representative and bill co-author Rodel Batocabe said, “The DOH under Secretary Ona fought for the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law, which is anchored on freedom of informed choice particularly in matters pertaining to sexual and reproductive health and rights. It would be such a setback if the agency imposes a procedure that is just sensitive and potentially life-altering. Let us not go back to the times when the word democracy is meaningless. History has taught us that coercion or compulsion is never effective. I know that the DOH has the best intentions, but clearly this is not what the people want. The DOH must instead mobilize resources for massive information dissemination across all sectors.”
Latest figures from the Department of Health’s official passive surveillance system, AIDS Registry, show that 498 new individuals were diagnosed to be HIV positive. This is 415 percent higher compared to the same period five years ago.
“Experts are calling our HIV situation in the country fast and furious, probably to connote that the epidemic is outpacing the government’s response. This could mean that either our efforts are insufficient or our strategies are not tailored to the needs of our populations who are most-at-risk to the infection,” said bill author and PLCPD Vice Chairperson Rep. Teddy Baguilat.
“We may be one of only nine countries in the world which continue to see an expanding epidemic, making it impossible for the Philippines to achieve the MDG target of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS by 2015. We need to adapt and take to heart the calls of our most-at-risk populations when we design our actions. This is why PLCPD is taking part in the multisectoral efforts to scale up the HIV response by ensuring that a responsive law is in place. This is one of our priority legislative agenda for the 16th Congress,” said PLCPD Executive Director Rom Dongeto.
Secretary Ona flagged the plan to make HIV testing mandatory during the committee deliberations on the amendment bill held in February this year. His statement was met with overwhelming opposition from advocates. According to DOH’s latest statement, the department is working on the details for making HIV tests compulsory as a means to address increasing HIV cases in the country. Mandatory testing is prohibited by existing law and the decision to submit to HIV testing is left solely to the individuals taking the test as they are the ones who can tell if they are physically and emotionally ready for it.
About 170 local legislators consisting of vice governors, provincial board members, and city and municipal councilors convened last June 25-27 for the Local Legislators’ League on Population, Health, Environment and Development (3LPHED) 4th National Assembly held at Paradise Garden Resort hotel and convention Center in Boracay, Malay, Aklan.
With the theme “Changing Climate: Exploring the Climate and Population Links for Effective Governance”, the national assembly aimed to strengthen and consolidate members of 3LPHED and provide opportunities for learning and sharing, as well as developing its policy agenda on population, health and environment.
The assembly was welcomed by Vice Governor Gabrielle Calizo-Quimpo of Aklan and Vice Mayor Wilbec Gelito of Malay, Aklan in a welcome dinner. Speakers in the main program included Climate Change Commissioner Naderev Saño, who discussed the basics of climate change; Department of the Interior and Local Government Director Analiza Baganyo, who presented the local governance imperatives of action for climate change; and PLCPD Executive Director Rom Dongeto, who talked about the population dynamics of the effects of climate change.
The highlight of the assembly was the oath taking of members and the election of new set of national officers. Following is the new set of officers for the period 2014-2016: Masbate Vice Governor Vicente Homer B. Revil, National President; Sultan Kudarat Vice Governor Ernesto Matias, Executive Vice President; Tarlac Vice Governor Enrique “Kit” Cojuangco, Vice President for Luzon; Eastern Samar Board Member Jenny Baldono, Vice President for Visayas; Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Joey Pelaez, Vice President for Mindanao; Tarlac Board Member Romeo Evangelista, National Secretary General; Aurora Vice Governor Rommel Rico Angara, Deputy National Secretary General; and Pilar, Quezon Municipal Councilor Ron Magbuhos-Papag, National Treasurer. Officers for the following posts were also elected: Assistant Treasurer (Candon City Councilor Kristelle Kit Singson); National Auditor (Mountain Province Vice Governor Bonifacio Lacwasan Jr.); Assistant National Auditor (Jalajala, Rizal Vice Mayor Elmer Pillas); National Public Relations Officer (PRO) (Leyte Vice Governor Carlo Loreto); North Luzon PRO (Bataan Board Member Dexter “Teri Onor” Dominguez); South Luzon PRO (Placer, Masbate Vice Mayor Nilo V. Du); Visayas PRO (Leyte Board Member Mesias Arevalo); Mindanao PRO (Surigao del Sur Board Member Mary Grace Lim); and Business Manager (Malay, Aklan Vice Mayor Wilbec Gelito).