May 19, 2016
Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) challenged President-elect Rodrigo Duterte and members of the incoming 17th Congress to prioritize ending hunger and malnutrition in the country.
Speaking at the regular Pandesal Forum in Quezon City, PLCPD executive director Romeo Dongeto said that the next administration and Congress will be tested on their commitment and actions towards ending the most persistent and pervasive problems of the country, including hunger and malnutrition.
He also reminded the incoming government officials of the new Sustainable Development Goals, which rest on the importance of human development in building a brighter future. He stressed that number two among the 17 global goals is ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.
“We have a lot of things yet to do to achieve food and nutrition security. The next government should look into a wide range of issues, from agriculture to trade, from infrastructure to financing, from healthcare to clean water and sanitation,” Dongeto said.
According to Dongeto, achieving food and nutrition security should begin with the review of the implementation of existing laws and programs.
“We have many good laws on food and nutrition. There are at least 21 government agencies with mandates that directly or indirectly affect the many facets of food and nutrition security. Yet millions of Filipinos still experience hunger, chronic malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency,” Dongeto lamented.
In 2015, 13.4% of Filipinos said they experienced hunger, according to the Social Weather Stations. 33 in 100 children aged below five are stunted or too short for their age (“bansot”) while seven in 100 children of the same age bracket are wasted or too thin for their height, according to Food and Nutrition Research Institute (2015).
On one hand, one in every 10 Filipino adults suffer from chronic energy deficiency, according to the 2013 National Nutrition Survey.
“President-elect Duterte should deliver on his promise of eradicating poverty, especially in the rural areas, by empowering small farmers and fisherfolk,” Dongeto said.
The next government should develop the countryside, create sustainable livelihood and help farmers and fisherfolk withstand the impact of climate change and natural disasters, he added.
Dongeto also called on Congress to enact a law that will provide adequate healthcare, clean water, sanitation and nutrition interventions in the first 1,000 days – a period the covers the nine months of pregnancy to the child’s second birthday which is critical in a child’s physical and cognitive development.
As part of its iChange voters’ education campaign, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) held a public forum on May 3 in Barangay Culiat to urge voters to elect candidates who will ensure the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law.
In his opening remarks, PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto stressed the importance of reproductive health especially of mothers and the youth in building a stronger republic.
He underscored the primacy of informed choice of couples, women and youth in planning their families and protecting their reproductive health.
Challenges to RH Law implementation
Dongeto also lamented the negative consequences of the 1 billion peso-budget cut on family planning services for 2016.
“The budget cut derails our progress in improving maternal health and setbacks our efforts to promote family planning and responsible parenthood. In Benguet where we also had a public forum on RH, local government officials already complain how the budget cut impedes access of poor women to free family planning services,” he said.
Dongeto challenged local government units to step up their own efforts and provide funds on their own capacity to ensure free reproductive health services for their constituents.
Poorer constituents may also access reproductive health services through non-government organizations, said Dr. Junice Melgar, director of the Family Health Office- Department of Health.
“Women should practice family planning and protect their reproductive health and there are many ways to get free RH services. Information is thus very important,” she said.
“People should know where to go,” Dr. Juan Antonio Perez, Executive Director of the Commission on Population, added.
Vote for pro-RH candidates, vote for the future
For her part, former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, convener of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement, emphasized the need for RH information and services and its importance in addressing the needs of the family and the nation amid scarce resources.
“RH is key to a better life. Family planning enables parents to provide for their children. RH services will also address rising teenage pregnancy in the country,” she said.
Secretary Cabral challenged voters in the audience to vote for candidates who stand up for RH and champion the meaningful implementation of the RH Law.
“Let us vote for our future,” she said.
Meanwhile, ANG NARS Party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz, who graced the forum, pledged her continuous support for RH, stressing that women have the right to informed choice.
She shared about her advocacy to support health workers, increasing compensation and building the capacity of barangay health workers and public nurses.
Atty. Cris Yambot, who represented BAYAN MUNA Rep. and senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares, echoed the candidate’s support for RH.
“Neri Colmenares fought for the rights of the women and mothers,” she said, recalling that Rep. Colmenares has pushed for several measures that seek to protect women from violence, promote maternal and child health and nutrition, end discrimination against women and LGBTs, and increase budget for health.
The public forum in Culiat was the last activity of PLCPD’s iChange campaign which aims to mainstream development issues in the national conversation leading to the 2016 elections. PLCPD conducted RH advocacy activities in Project 6, Quezon City; Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; La Trinidad, Benguet; Lagawe, Ifugao; Cotabato City; and Tabaco City, Albay. The public forum was organized in partnership with the officials of Brgy. Culiat, Quezon City.
April 30, 2016
Six senior technical and legislative staff from the House of Representatives participated in the study tour on food and nutrition security organized by the Philippine Legisaltors’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) in Benguet province, April 25-28. The two sites selected, provincial capital La Trinidad and municipality of Tublay, have been consistently commended for their agriculture, nutrition and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) programs and policies.
The participants dialogued with the provincial officials of Benguet including the Provincial Health Officer, Provincial Agriculture Officer and Provincial DRRM Officer as well as their counterparts at the municipal level in both La Trinidad and Tublay.
The provincial officers shared about the support services they provide to farmers such as soft loans and technical assistance, capacity-building for municipal and barangay level workers, and information dissemination on health and nutrition in medical missions and in health centers.
Mayor Edna Tabanda of La Trinidad discussed how the local government, in cooperation with Benguet State University, supports farmers in improving the quality of their produce through organic farming and facilitating the marketing and sale at various commercial outlets.
The municipal officers of Tublay talked about their innovative agriculture and nutrition programs that hinge on the convergence of various sectors and on the adoption of national programs and frameworks to suit the needs of their citizens. Their nutrition program called “A Joint Undertaking for Women’s Health and Nutrition” or AJUWHAN has helped increase the Tublay’s exclusive breastfeeding rate from 70% to 89.4% and decreased the number of underweight children from 28 to 11 since its inception. Study tour participants were also invited to the municipal agriculture center where they produce compost, vermicompost and mokusaku, a Japanese-introduced technology of using wood vinegar as pesticide and soil conditioner.
Those visited in La Trinindad and Tublay grimly talked about their difficulties to cope after Typhoon Lando. Nevertheless, they credited the local government units (LGUs) for being pro-active in providing assistance to farmers even before they seek help from the offices. Governor Fongwan shared that his mandate is to “[l]et the people feel the presence of the government.”
Study tour participants also interacted with the organic farmers of La Trinidad and Tublay at their respective farms. The farmers expressed their appreciation for organic agriculture and interest to continue its practice. They lamented limitations in financial and physical resources, such as irrigation facilities and more appropriate and marketable seeds.
These discussions enriched their understanding of the state of food security, organic agriculture, and the implementation of key policies on food and nutrition security. Some existing laws that need to be revisited as identified by the participants include: Republic Act (R.A.) 8178 (Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund), which offers loans and scholarships for agriculture; R.A. 9729 (People’s Survival Fund), which can provide additional funding for LGU projects related to climate change adaptation; R.A. 10068 (Organic Agriculture Act), which can facilitate the lowering or subsidy on certification fees of organic agriculture associations; and R.A. 9184 (General Procurement Reform Act) to ease the release of funds during emergency situations.
The activity commenced with the presentation of photo essays developed by the participants, representing their assessment and recommendation of food and nutrition security in Benguet. The LGU representatives chose Ms. Gladys Ramos from the Committee on Rural Development as the winner, with her entry, “Bridging the Gap.” She closed her presentation by mentioning “[t]he ultimate goal that every home of every Filipino will have sufficient and nutritious food.”
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, in partnership with the UN World Food Programme-Philippines (WFP), conducted a policy forum entitled, “Ways forward: Sustaining the policy agenda on food and nutrition security for the next government,” at the Sulo Hotel in Quezon City on April 27. The forum brought together lead government agencies, Congressional committees, and civil society organizations to discuss pressing food and nutrition security concerns and contribute in drawing the policy agenda for the 17th Congress.
Dr. Martin Parreño, WFP’s Nutrition Programme Officer, discussed the interrelationship between food and nutrition and health, stressing that arresting nutrition security challenges such as malnutrition, water and sanitation, healthcare, will immensely contribute to food security. To highlight this need, he further shared that over 6% of the country’s GDP is lost to malnutrition as it hampers productivity. Thus the government needs to seriously undertake measures to promote food and nutrition security.
Meanwhile, Dr. Domingo Angeles, chair of Interdisciplinary Studies Center on Food and Nutrition Security at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), focused on food security and its pillars—availability, accessibility, stability, and utilization. The absence of even one in the equation will hamper the goal to end hunger and malnutrition. Dr. Angeles shared strategies to help promote food security, most of which were pioneered in UPLB, such as product diversification, support for research and development, and encouraging the youth to invest in farming as a viable profession.
As a form of response, government agencies shared their programs and policies to address challenges to food and nutrition security. Undersecretary Rosalina Bistoyong of the Department of Agrarian (DAR) reform shared that DAR just started a partnership with WFP to help farmers, especially in disaster-prone areas, to increase productivity and help expand and ensuring a fair market for them. Meanwhile, Department of Agriculture representative Ulysses Lustria emphasized the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 framework, which centers on productivity in agriculture and fisheries, making growth inclusive for all basic sectors.
Congressional Committee Secretaries Cecilia Reyes (Food Security), Consolacion Galang (Agriculture and Food), Rita Macabulos (Agrarian Reform), and Service Director of the Congressional Planning and Budget Research Department Novel Bangsal also responded and shared legislative proposals that seek to address food and nutrition security issues lodged in their respective committees. These policies center on agricultural and fisheries modernization/mechanization, development of other industries such as sugarcane and coconut, proper land distribution and acquisition, strengthened support and investment for farmers, and promotion of health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days, among others.
Civil society organizations, Philippine Network of Food Security Programs in the Philippines and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, both represented by their heads, Ms. Estrella Catarata and Mr. Isagani Serrano, respectively, also shared perspectives to achieve food and nutrition security. These are through community-based initiatives, investing on climate resilient and high value crops, organic farming, closing the information gap, and pushing for policies that will push forth food and nutrition security.
Ultimately, the following areas for reform were identified and discussed by speakers and participants in the forum: reforms in governance structures necessary to foster convergence for a more comprehensive policy framework; interventions in promoting food and nutrition security in terms of programs policies and policies; and funding necessary to ensure investment in agriculture to help attain food and nutrition security.
April 22, 2016
Reproductive health advocates and leaders from various sectors joined voices to step up pressure on candidates to ensure the full implementation the Reproductive Health Law.
In a press conference in Quezon City today, the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement – a broad coalition of groups and individuals who pushed for the enactment of the RH Law – urged national and local candidates to prioritize public education on sexual and reproductive health and rights, and the delivery of reproductive health services, including modern family planning methods.
“An overwhelming majority of Filipinos say family planning is important and that the government should fund family planning services. Candidates should heed the people’s voice,” said Romeo C. Dongeto, Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) executive director.
He cited a February 2016 Pulse Asia survey that revealed 95% of Filipinos saying family planning is important and 86% believing that it is the government’s responsibility to fund family planning services.
Representatives from various marginalized sectors, such as the urban poor, the youth, people living with HIV, persons with disability, workers and community health workers, stressed the importance of RH information and services that will address the specific needs of their sectors.
“We are the 95% and RH is our right,” they said. They decried the cut on the 2016 budget cut on family planning, lamenting that defunding the implementation of the RH Law gravely affects their sectors and will reverse the gains in maternal and family health and development.
Meanwhile, in a statement, former health secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral, convener of the Purple Ribbon for RH Movement, challenged candidates to bare their position and plans on RH and stop dancing around the issue.
Cabral lamented that reproductive health was not discussed in the Comelec presidential and vice presidential debates. Candidates have not substantively addressed the calls of many advocates for stronger commitment to fully implement the RH Law.
“Throughout this campaign, candidates have resorted to motherhood statements instead of laying down specific plans to promote women’s rights, particularly ensuring women’s sexual and reproductive health. One candidate even made fun of rape, which is totally unacceptable and insensitive to rape victims and survivors,” Cabral said.
“We have to end the culture that reduces women to sexual objects, the belief that women are just for childbearing and housekeeping. Candidates should stand up for women empowerment, for their health and development where reproductive health is a major component,” she added.
Cabral also challenged voters to elect leaders who have demonstrated strong commitment to champion reproductive health and protect women’s rights.
She also warned anti-RH candidates, “We will take the fight to the ballots. Do not go against the current. Otherwise, you will not want to be on the wrong side of history.”
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), Commission on Population Region V, Department of Health (DOH)Region V, Population Management Bureau, members of different youth organizations and various community groups in Tabaco City and other municipalities of Albay urged local and national candidates to take all necessary efforts to address the increasing teenage pregnancy, maternal and child deaths, and increasing HIV cases among youth in a candidates’ forum in Bicol University Tabaco Campus in Albay.
The forum was attended by city councilor candidate Sheina Onrubia, Tabaco mayoral candidate Krisel Lagman, and representative of Ako Bicol Partylist Nico Guillermo.
PLCPD’s executive director Mr. Romeo Dongeto encouraged the participants to raise their voice in the upcoming elections in choosing leaders who champion the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law amidst the recent 1 billion peso-budget cut on family planning services.
POPCOM Regional Director Ms. Magdalena Abellera stated that Region V has the third highest number of young people who have read pornographic materials. She also showed the increasing proportions of young people who have engaged in sex before the age of 18, from 11.8 in 1994 to 18.4 in 2013.
Teenage pregnancy in Region V is continuously increasing, from 1,427 in 2013 to 2,534 in 2015, according to Population Management Bureau Population Program Officer III Mr. Ryan Altavano. However, as of first quarter this year, recorded teenage pregnancies (270) is lower than 383 by first quarter of last year.
Department of Health Family Health Cluster Coordinator Mr. Dave Plopinio reported the increasing contraceptive prevalence rate in the region from 38.52% in 2014 to 39.52% in 2015.
Accessibility and availabity of facilities and services
Tabaco mayoral candidate Lagman and Ako Bicol Partylist representative Guillermo acknowledged that access to facilities and services is one of the biggest issues in Tabaco. They believe that fast and reliable service is needed to be prioritized in the implementation of RH.
However, DOH is continuously providing information and setting up clinics in communities so they can access services, according to Mr. Plopinio.
Mr. Plopinio and Ako Bicol Partylist representative Guillermo said that the solution to the increasing HIV cases is a strong HIV awareness campaign. Mr. Altavano stated that knowledge on HIV and free HIV counseling and testing must be disseminated to the public.
Availability of funds
Availability of funds is crucial in the implementation of RH Law. Thus, City Councilor Candidate Onrubia pushed for the inclusion of reproductive health budget in the barangay budget in her previous term. Tabaco mayoral candidate Lagman also believes that additional fund is needed to prevent further increase in new HIV cases.
April 15, 2016
Despite the existence of many laws that seek to promote and protect children’s rights in all settings, many Filipino children continue to be exploited, abused and neglected. Many children still suffer from undernutrition and poor access to education, health services, safe water and sanitation which affect their physical and cognitive development with long-term consequences on their productivity and national development.
CHILDREN’S RIGHTS. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the Philippines ratified in 1990, recognizes the fundamental rights of children to survival, development, protection, and participation.
The 1987 Philippine Constitution also recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and vows to “promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being.”
Nutrition in first 1,000 days. The period between 0 to 5 years, especially the first 1,000 days starting from the nine months in the mother’s womb up to the child’s second birthday, is critical in the child’s physical and cognitive development.
Existing nutrition interventions, e.g. school feeding, often miss this crucial window of opportunity to ensure optimal development of children. More efforts are also needed to encourage and promote exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months.
Children in situations of armed conflict. Studies have shown that displacement of whole communities and destruction of schools and homes due to war cause profound physical and psychological effects on children, ranging from fear to low self-esteem, from depression to aggressive behavior.
The next administration and Congress should prioritize building a peaceful environment for children, increase protection for children from exploitation by armed groups, and provide space for meaningful participation of children in peace-building.
Children in emergencies. Disasters and emergency situations exacerbate the vulnerability of children. While the 16th Congress passed a bill providing for immediate relief of children during emergencies, children also need to be given the opportunity to participate in DRRM.
Positive discipline. Many Filipino children are subjected to physical and psychological harm in the name of discipline. In this day and age, there is a better alternative – positive discipline – which embraces a rights-based approach to raising our children, ending violence against children, and building a safer and nurturing environment for them.
THE CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE. Children are our country’s future. Protecting and investing in children’s development benefit the nation in the long run. The next government should make children’s needs and interest a top priority, building a world where children can achieve their fullest potential.
April 14, 2016
Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) urged voters to elect leaders who will ensure the full implementation of the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood Law.
“A vote for pro-RH candidates is a vote for Filipino women and youth who, per government data and public surveys, need most RH information and services,” said Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, in a public forum in Barangay Project 6, Quezon City last April 14.
Seven million Filipinas have unmet need for family planning, said Dongeto, citing data from the Department of Health. Meanwhile, according to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, 221 mothers die per 100,000 live births due to complications during pregnancy or childbirth, Dongeto added.
He also cited a Pulse Asia survey in February 2016 which showed 95% of Filipinos say it is important to have the ability to plan their families. Based on the said survey, 86% of Filipinos want the government to allocate funding for family planning services.
Meanwhile, the Philippines has the high teenage pregnancy rate with one in every 10 or 14% of Filipino girls aged 15-19 either pregnant for the first time or already mothers in 2013, according to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study.
The Philippines has also the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to the World Health Organization. From one case per day in 2008, 22 new HIV cases were reported every day in 2015. In January 2016, 804 new HIV cases were documented. Around 28% of these cases are among young people aged 15-24.
“It is very clear that Filipinos, especially women and young people, need reproductive health and family planning information and services to protect their health and plan their future. Only the heartless candidates will not heed the people’s cry for help,” Dongeto said.
“Addressing these needs would require full support from national and local officials to ensure sufficient funding for comprehensive sexuality education, building fully-equipped facilities and capacitating health workers, and service delivery,” Dongeto added.
Several candidates joined the discussion and shared their respective positions and platforms on RH with the audience from different barangays in Quezon City.
Senatorial candidate Atty. Lorna Kapunan pledged her support for reproductive health and women’s rights. Ang NARS Party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz and AKBAYAN fourth nominee Rafaela David also committed to address public health issues, including RH.
Meanwhile, vice-presidential candidate Rep. Leni Robredo was represented by her niece Dr. Gaile Robredo who shared about Rep. Robredo’s long experience in championing women’s rights.
“The challenge is not only upon candidates but voters as well to choose the right leaders who will ensure the meaningful implementation of the RPRH Law. And demanding our right to RH does not end in the elections. We should remain vigilant and watch closely whether our leaders will stay true to their promise to defend RH,” Dongeto concluded.
April 12, 2016
COTABATO CITY – Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) challenged national and local candidates to ensure the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law in a forum today at the El Manuel Hotel and Convention Center.
Mr. Rio Magpayo, PLCPD manager for local advocacy, stressed that reproductive health is a fundamental human right that the government should actively fulfil, defend and promote.
“The Reproductive Health Law mandates the government to provide RH information and services to the public. Government officials should uphold the law and back its full and meaningful implementation,” Mr. Magpayo said.
The RH Law was passed in December 2012 after more than a decade in the legislative mill but only took effect in April 2014 when the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) also enacted its regional RH law (Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act 292) in December 2012, days before President Aquino signed the RH Law.
“The responsibility to fully implement the RH Law not only rests in national officials and executive agencies but also in the local government because they are at the forefront in addressing people’s needs,” Mr. Magpayo emphasized.
“We have to ensure that the next set of leaders both at the national and local levels will prioritize the delivery of RH services to promote contraceptive use and improve maternal health,” he added.
According to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Study, ARMM has high unmet need for family planning and low contraceptive prevalence rate. Women in the region also lack of access to skilled birth attendance and antenatal and postnatal care, the survey showed.
“The 2016 elections is a critical opportunity for us to ensure public access to reproductive health information and services by electing leaders who will defend our RH rights,” Mr. Magpayo said.
“A great majority of Filipinos say family planning is important,” Mr. Magpayo added, citing the results of a Pulse Asia survey which showed overwhelming (95%) public support nationwide for family planning. “Candidates should heed the people’s voice,” he concluded.
The forum was conducted as part of PLCPD’s “iChange: Vote for Change” voter education campaign, in partnership with Coalition of Human Rights Defenders and Peacebuilders (CHRDP).
April 1, 2016
Advocates called on candidates to adopt a stronger and comprehensive program to address the alarming increase of HIV cases in the country.
In a theater-forum organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) on March 31, PLCPD challenged candidates to intensify HIV awareness drives and ensure youth access to HIV testing, counselling and treatment.
The Philippines has now the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to the World Health Organization. From one case per day in 2008, 22 new HIV cases were reported every day in 2015. In January 2016, 804 new HIV cases were documented. Around 28% of these cases are among young people aged 15-24.
“The current AIDS Law (Republic Act 8504) can no longer adequately address the increasing number of HIV cases in the Philippines. We need to amend the law to provide sufficient funding for HIV response and increase access of young people to HIV information and services,” Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
Under RA 8504, young people aged 18 below are prohibited from accessing HIV testing and other services without written parental or guardian consent. This discourages them to get tested. Early detection and knowing one’s status help in getting treatment and preventing further spread of the virus.
“Easing access of minors to HIV testing is consistent with their right to make choices based on their evolving decision-making capacity and needs regarding their health and well-being. We hope candidates will prioritize this,” Dongeto said.
He also stressed that providing information will correct the myths and misconceptions about HIV that have caused stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV (PLHIV), especially among males having sex with males (MSMs). MSMs account for the most number of HIV cases in the country.
“We need to double our efforts to raise public awareness on HIV to end discrimination against affected and vulnerable populations,” he said.
In line with this, the theater group Tanghalang Pilipino performed a one-act play entitled “Melanie” during the PLCPD event at UP Diliman. “Melanie” tells the story of a transgender beautician who died from the complications of AIDS and how her death raised awareness about HIV among her friends.
PLCPD organized the activity with the support of UNICEF Philippines and in partnership with the Quezon City Government, the Department of Health, and the Philippine National AIDS Council.
March 29, 2016
Eight out of 10 or 79% of Filipinos say it is important that candidates include family planning in their programs of action, according to a recent Pulse Asia survey.
The survey, conducted on February 15–20 among 1,800 registered voters across the country, revealed high public preference for family planning. 95% of the respondents say it is important to have the ability to plan their families, an increase of 5% from the result of a similar survey in 2010.
Most Filipinos—nine of 10 or 86%—also want the government to allocate funding for family planning services, the survey found.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), which sponsored the questions on family planning in the Pulse survey, cited the results in stepping up pressure on the current and next government to fully implement the Reproductive Health Law and allocate sufficient funding for its implementation, including family planning services.
“The people have spoken. Candidates should prioritize family planning and ensure the full implementation of the RH Law,” Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
Dongeto lamented that despite the clear mandate of the law, some officials at the national and local level hamper the free provision of family planning services. RH Law critics outside the government also continue to challenge its implementation, recently scoring a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court halting government procurement and distribution of birth control implants.
Funding for family planning services for this year was also slashed by P1 billion during the bicameral conference for the General Appropriations Act. Meanwhile, at the local level, anti-RH officials like Mayor Sally Lee of Sorsogon City moved to ban use of modern family planning in their localities. RH advocates fear that these moves will reverse gains in promoting responsible parenthood and improving maternal health.
The country has failed to achieve its Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths. According to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, there are 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births – far from the target of 52 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.
“Filipinos, especially the poor, need information and services to plan their families and improve their reproductive health,” Dongeto said.
Dongeto also stressed that young people should have access to family planning services, given the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy in the country.
The Philippines has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Asia, according to the United Nations. One in every 10 or 14% of Filipino girls aged 15-19 years were either pregnant for the first time or already mothers in 2013, according to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study. “The 2016 elections is an opportune time to choose the next set of leaders, from the national down to the local level, who will ensure the meaningful implementation of the RH Law, including funding for family planning, one of its important elements,” Dongeto concluded.
March 23, 2016
After more than one decade in the legislative mill, the Reproductive Health and Responsible Parenthood (RPRH) bill was enacted into law in December 2012. However, the struggle to provide reproductive health information and free family planning services continues as anti-RH forces weaken the implementation of the law.
A recent Pulse Asia survey reveals that an overwhelming majority (95%) of Filipinos believe that it is important to have the ability to plan their families. The same survey also shows majority of Filipinos say that the government should allocate funds for family planning and that candidates should include family planning among their priority agenda.
PLCPD will share the detailed results of the survey, conducted on February 15-20, with the media and civil society partners on March 29, as it calls on voters to elect the right leaders who will heed the people’s voice and champion the full and meaningful implementation of the RPRH Law.
March 23, 2016
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hosted a candidates’ forum on reproductive health (RH) on March 17 at the Benguet State University (BSU) in La Trinidad.
15 candidates shared their position on RH during the event: Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of DIWA Party-List; Gov. Nestor Fongwan; Provincial Board Members Jack Dulnuan, Jim Botiwey, and Robert Namoro; Mayor Faustino Aquisan of Kabayan; Vice Mayor Romeo Salda of La Trinidad; and La Trinidad candidates Virginia Fianza, Guiller Galwan, Mark Corton, Bobot Fongwan, Jimmy Go, Henry Kipas, Rerato Tereng, and Roderick Awingan.
PLCPD’s executive director Romeo Dongeto urged the audience, composed of around 150 BSU students and members of community organizations, to speak up about their views on reproductive health. He discussed the important provisions of the RH Law and how its current form limits adolescents’ access to RH services. He stressed the importance of highlighting RH in the upcoming elections, especially in light of the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy and HIV infections among young people nationwide.
The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy (18.4%) in the country, said Job Manalang, information officer of Commission of Population (POPCOM)-CAR. It is also the only region in the country where the proportion of females engaging in premarital sex is increasing, he added.
Mr. Manalang also shared that RH indicators in Benguet have improved. The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) increased to 56.7%, which is higher than the average CPR of CAR. Their maternal mortality ratio has decreased and is lower than the national average.
Moreover, problems in adolescent reproductive health persist in Baguio City, the highly-urbanized city of Benguet. Baguio has more number of live births (1,006) among 15-19 year old women in 2015 than Ifugao and Mountain Province combined (886) in 2014. Baguio also has five times more cases of STIs, HIV and AIDS among young people 15-24 years old (97 cases) in 2014 than the whole region from 2011-2013 (18 cases).
Committed partners in reproductive health
All candidates affirmed their support for the RH Law and pledged to sustain and strengthen efforts for the full and meaningful implementation of the law, especially at the grassroots level.
Congresswoman Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of DIWA Partylist shared her deeper appreciation—as a new mother—for maternal health as an important component of reproductive health. She also presented DIWA’s legislative agenda for reproductive health, which includes the expanded maternity leave bill and the institutionalization of pregnancy and antenatal counselling. She stressed the state’s obligation to fulfill reproductive health rights and provide the full spectrum of reproductive health services.
For his part, Governor Fongwan stressed the need to increase programs, manpower and funding for reproductive health programs. He decried the P1 billion-budget cut on family planning, saying this will severely affect the poorest municipalities.
Gov. Fongwan also lamented the current status of RH programs as “optional” in many LGUs due to lack of national appropriations. He aims to mandate the full implementation of RH programs at all levels of local government and their inclusion in the annual investment plans. He also urged local leaders in Benguet to ensure that RH programs and policies are in place and strengthened.
Other local candidates explained how they have already implemented RH programs such as provision of maternal and ante-natal health services, improvements of maternal health facilities and policies which institutionalize the implementation and appropriations of RH programs.
Hon. Robert Namoro lauded La Trinidad for incorporating budget appropriations for RH and conducting annual women’s congress. Vice Mayor Salda of La Trinidad also explained that they institutionalized it through their Gender and Development (GAD) budget.
Moreover, most of the candidates also identified education and information dissemination as crucial responses to the growing concerns on adolescent health. They exalted existing and proposed dissemination avenues include barangay assemblies, flag ceremonies of students and parenting seminars.
Recognizing the importance role of frontline health workers, the candidates of La Trinidad also talked about an ordinance to increase the benefits of Barangay Health Workers. This bill is already at the second reading.
Reaching out to the youth
Meanwhile, municipal candidate Bobot Fongwan encouraged the audience to seek correct information on RH from elders like their teachers, parents or guardians instead of perpetuating wrong beliefs or myths with peers.
Age-appropriate sexuality education, said Cong. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, is not only important to decrease the incidence of teenage pregnancies but to ensure that students understand how and why they should take care of their own health and bodies.
Teenage pregnancy is not a laughing matter and should be taken more seriously, said Mr. Manalang of POPCOM-CAR. “Hindi nakakatawa kapag buntis ang isang batang 14 years old at di niya alam ang dapat niyang gawin. (It’s not funny when a fourteen year-old child gets pregnant and she does not know what to do.),” he said.
He challenged the youth to maximize their role in the upcoming elections. Candidates will be more inclined to listen and act when the affected population actually demands for reproductive health programs and services, he concluded.
Students from Ifugao State University (IFSU) and members of community organizations in Ifugao urged local candidates to take all necessary efforts to address worsening reproductive health (RH) situation among the youth in the province—increasing teenage pregnancies and HIV.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hosted the forum in IFSU on March 15 between a crowd of about 450 IFSU students and members of community organizations and local candidates James Tayaban, candidate for District 1 board member; Jose Bogwana, candidate for District 2 board member; Tom Guinomon, candidate for Lamut councilor; and Mariano Buyagawan, candidate for mayor of Lamut.
PLCPD’s local advocacy manager Rio Magpayo encouraged the students to support candidates who champion reproductive health amidst the recent 1 billion peso-cut on family planning services in the national budget for 2016.
Provincial Population and Sustainable Development/Ifugao Youth Development Division (PPSD/IYDD) representative Arnel Taguinay presented reproductive health-related problems in Ifugao, emphasizing the increasing number of teenage pregnancies among others.
Ifugao has seen a steady improvement in all of its goals related to RH—such as decline in maternal and infant deaths and increase in skilled birth attendance and facility-based deliveries—except in one area: adolescent sexual and reproductive health. In 2015, the province reported 515 adolescent pregnancies, the highest number recorded in Ifugao so far.
Strengthening health systems, capacitating health workers
Incumbent Lamut Mayor Mariano Buyagawan emphasized the role of health boards and the importance of health stations per barangay to uphold reproductive health of the people. He also shared that strengthening the municipal health board of Lamut has been one of his major programs.
District 2 Board Member aspirant Jose Bogwana said that he believed in giving incentives to health workers to improve their services to contribute to the implementation of RH programs in the province.
However, Incumbent Mayor Buyagawan emphasized the importance of capacitating health workers with the right skills and knowledge to duly do their jobs.
Education, awareness raising, empowering the youth through various community and socio-civic activities, and involving parents and communities were among the recommendations of the candidates to curb the increasing teenage pregnancies in the province.
Lamut aspiring councilor Tom Guinomon said strengthening young people’s values will turn them away from engaging in risky sexual behavior.
Education is the answer to the increasing teenage pregnancy according to James Tayaban, District 1 board member aspirant, encouraging the students in the crowd to focus on education and their future.
Bogawana encouraged the youth to engage in different government led activities, and attend sports, spiritual and entrepreneurship training, and other similar activities. He also believes that the involvement of parents and communities will help in addressing reproductive health issues including teenage pregnancy.
March 15, 2016
The Purple Ribbon for RH Movement, a vast network of groups and individuals advocating for reproductive health, has endorsed Rep. Leni Robredo for vice president and former Reps. Risa Hontiveros and Walden Bello, and former justice secretary Leila de Lima for senator.
In a press conference today, former health secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral said that these candidates have championed the RH Law and have shown their commitment to fully implement the said law.
Dr. Cabral said they did not only look into the candidates’ position on RH but also considered their track record in upholding human rights.
“Rep. Leni has been fighting for the rights of women, farmers and other marginalized sectors even before her election as congresswoman,” said Mina Tenorio of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health.
Shame campaign vs Sotto, Pacquiao
The group also called on the electorate to not vote officials who deliberately hampered the implementation of the RH Law, like Sen. Tito Sotto and Rep. Manny Pacquiao.
In a written statement distributed to the media, they called Sotto and Pacquiao “shameful bigots who have no care for the welfare of women, children and Filipino families.”
Sotto was behind the P1-billion cut on the 2016 budget for family planning services which threatens to reverse the gains in recent years on improving maternal health and promoting family planning.
“When we talk about public health and reproductive health, Tito Sotto is public enemy number one. He is a liar – he has deliberately spread misinformation in a desperate attempt to block RH,” the group said.
Lina Bacalando, president of PILAKK, an organization helping women in poor communities, dared Sotto to face women in poor communities so he would know their plight.
Ms. Bacalando added that Sotto should admit to poor women that he’s rabidly anti-RH and that he was behind the budget cut that deprives them of RH services.
The group also lambasted Pacquiao for his incendiary statements against LGBTs and staunch refusal to recognize the value of RH for poor families across the country.
“Walang puwang sa Senado ang isang taong nagmamaliit at yumuyurak sa karapatan ng kahit na sinong mamamayan (There’s no place in the Senate for someone who tramples on the rights of people),” Romeo Dongeto, executive director of the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), said.
RH fight continues
The Purple Ribbon for RH Movement also stressed the need to remain undaunted by the relentless challenge from the anti-RH camp and vowed to use their votes as weapon to attain full victory.
“Patuloy ang pagtatangka ng mga anti-RH na idiskaril ang implementasyon ng batas… Urong-sulong ang mga pulitiko at pamahalaan sa pagpapatupad nito (Anti-RH forces outside and inside the government continue to challenge the implementation of the RH Law),” Dongeto said.
“Ngayong Mayo, pagkakataon natin na iluklok ang mga lider na titiyaking may sapat na pondo para sa buo at makabuluhang implementasyon ng RH Law (We have the opportunity this May to elect leaders who will allot sufficient budget for the full and meaningful implementation of the RH Law),” he added.
“We encourage each and every Filipino to cast the Purple Vote with us. We must take the RH fight to the ballots and cast our vote for to defend the victory of the Reproductive Health Law in the next administration,” the group concluded.
Rep. Hontiveros was present during the press conference and shared her plans to help build a healthy Philippines, including building super health centers, expanding PhilHealth coverage and ensuring hospitals admit indigent patients.
Meanwhile, Rep. Bello was represented by Ms. Princess Nemenzo, founder of WomanHealth Philippines, and Rep. Robredo by Atty. Geoanne Hernandez of the group “Women for Leni.”
March 9, 2016
Several groups challenged national and local candidates to ensure the effective implementation of the Reproductive Health Law in a forum celebrating International Women’s Day today in Puerto Princesa City.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call, urging bets to defend the right of all, especially women, to family planning and reproductive health.
“Birth spacing improves maternal health and gives couples elbow room to manage their resources so they could provide their children their basic needs,” Ma. Aurora Quilala, PLCPD communications and research head, said.
Ms. Quilala stressed the importance of ensuring availability of and access to family planning information and services and its long-term positive impact on national development.
“The enactment of the RH Law, after more than 10 years in the legislative mill, is a huge step in the right direction. However, the constant challenge from anti-RH groups threatens to derail our progress in family planning and maternal health,” she said.
“The Senate recently slashed the budget for family planning by P1 billion, delivering a severe blow to efforts to increase contraceptive use that will contribute not only to meeting couples’ fertility goals but also to reducing maternal deaths in the country,” Ms. Quilala lamented.
Palawan is among the provinces with the highest maternal mortality ratio (MMR) in the country. According to a report that cited the Provincial Health Office (PHO), Palawan recorded 182 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2014, a huge increase from the 125 MMR in 2012. Nationally, there are 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, according to the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey. The country failed to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 target of reducing maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015.
“The next set of leaders, both at the national and local levels, should ensure that there is sufficient funding for the implementation of the RH Law, especially family planning,” said Ben de Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development.
“As we celebrate Women’s Day today, we must recognize the critical role women play in society. It is thus important that the government provides women the information and services that would contribute in improving their health and well-being, especially their reproductive health,” he said.
“It is also crucial that the youth are provided RH information and services to prevent unplanned pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections like HIV,” he added.
Around 9% of the total maternal deaths in Palawan are among teenage mothers (15-19 years old). Countrywide, teenage pregnancy is on the rise. 14% of Filipino girls aged 15-19 years are either pregnant or already mothers – twice the number in 2002 – based on the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study.
Meanwhile, 28% of new HIV cases in the Philippines from 2011 to 2015 are among young people 15-24 years old. Palawan has the highest number of HIV cases in the MIMAROPA region, according to reports.
March 5, 2016
Several civil society organizations urged senatorial candidates to take all necessary efforts to address the increasing vulnerability of poor and disaster-affected Philippine communities due to climate change, in a forum in the University of the Philippines Diliman, on March 3.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hosted the dialogue between organizations working on climate resilience and disaster management and senatorial candidates Raffy Alunan, Lorna Kapunan and Francis Tolentino.
In a statement, PLCPD executive director Romeo C. Dongeto, called on the candidates to champion policies and programs that promote the right of all people to adequate housing, especially amidst the growing threat of climate change.
Adequate housing is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It requires shelter safe from all forms of harm, sensitive to special needs of its inhabitants and with access to basic utilities, social services and livelihood opportunities.
Former Interior and Local Government Secretary Alunan said that it is the role of government to uplift lives and provide people their basic needs such as food, water, jobs and housing. He underscored the importance of good governance to achieve this.
Accountability and transparency through freedom of information is crucial in ensuring disaster victims are fully rehabilitated, Atty. Kapunan said.
Asked about how she will hold the authorities accountable for the deaths in Supertyphoon Yolanda, Kapunan answered she wants the “death penalty to all of them”, drawing cheers from the audience.
Holistic, multisectoral approach
For his part, former MMDA chair Francis Tolentino said the Yolanda disaster was confounded by different factors. Responsibility for disaster preparedness rests on all stakeholders, he said.
He stressed the importance of multisectoral participation and consultation in addressing disasters and climate change. The interest of the people should always be considered in resettling communities, he added, building his case for on-site socialized housing with ensured access to transportation and economic opportunities, and protection of indigenous peoples against mining.
Alunan also emphasized the need of a holistic approach in building climate-resilient communities.
Investment in green technology and renewable energy will also contribute in combatting climate change, said Kapunan. She proposed giving tax incentives and research grants to businesses developing and using clean energy, a point echoed by Tolentino.
Stronger local government
Meanwhile, addressing vulnerability of poor communities, especially in urban centers, requires devolution of resources to areas outside Manila, said Kapunan.
“Opportunities should be present in other regions for businesses to grow and provide local employment,” she said.
Local government units should also be capacitated to respond to disasters and promote sustainable development, Tolentino said. He cited his experience as mayor of Tagaytay in addressing issues on housing and development.
Tolentino also said that the national government should refund the 5% calamity fund of LGUs to replenish resources for disaster preparedness and rehabilitation.
Ecological security, environmental justice
Furthermore, Alunan urged the protection of natural lifelines through reforestation, mangrove planting, and cleaning of rivers to provide ecological security and environment justice.
To achieve security from disasters, Kapunan said a separate department on climate change should be created.
On the other hand, Tolentino urged the establishment of a department on disaster management and reconstruction that will synchronize disaster relief and recovery efforts in local and national levels.
A resilient and sustainable future
PLCPD organized the dialogue in coordination with DRRNet Philippines, Aksyon Klima, the University of the Philippines Student Council, and various civil society and youth organizations committed in building a resilient and sustainable future.
“Our next set of leaders must not only enact responsive policies to the demands of changing climate but also ensure that sufficient funding are allocated for their full implementation,” Dongeto concluded.
Two years after Yolanda pounded the Visayas, thousands of families still live in danger zones, in transition homes, or in permanent relocation sites that lack basic utilities and access to schools, health services and livelihood opportunities.
The delay in the implementation of housing projects in Yolanda-affected areas undermines the people’s fundamental right to adequate housing. The growing threat of climate change also exacerbates the vulnerability of Yolanda victims and many other communities living in high-risk areas.
This calls for policy reform and decisive action from government authorities, including Congress, to address many issues in post-disaster housing, disaster preparedness and climate change adaptation.
How do senatorial candidates plan to take on the challenge of building climate resilient and sustainable communities? Find out on March 3, 9:30 AM, at the Bahay ng Alumni, UP Diliman, Quezon City.
February 23, 2016
Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) launches today its voter education campaign to empower voters with information that will help them make better choices on Election Day, stressing the need to elect leaders who will prioritize human development.
“Elections provide the opportunity for the people to shape their future. Effecting positive change starts with voters electing leaders who will address pressing issues that affect human development, and national development in the long run,” explained Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director.
The launch of PLCPD’s voter education campaign called “iChange: Vote for Change” coincides with the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power revolution, which overthrew the Marcos dictatorship and restored democratic rule in the country.
“The promise of EDSA and democracy to empower every Filipino – especially the poor and vulnerable – is yet to be fully realized. Despite the enactment of landmark laws that seek to address social inequalities and empower women and marginalized sectors, and despite steady economic growth in recent years, millions of Filipinos still suffer from poverty, hunger and malnutrition, violence and the adverse effects of natural disasters,” Dongeto lamented.
“The 2016 elections gives us another chance to use the sovereign power vested on us by our Constitution towards building a more prosperous and sustainable future for all Filipinos,” Dongeto added.
PLCPD’s iChange campaign aims to mainstream a progressive human development agenda, calling for policy reform and decisive action to address issues in reproductive health, food and nutrition security, children’s rights, and climate resilience and adequate housing.
As part of the campaign, PLCPD will host several candidates’ forums at the national and local levels to engage candidates and utilize social media to disseminate information on candidates’ positions and plans on the issues enumerated above. PLCPD will also.
“It is critical that we arm the voters with information to guide them in choosing their next set of leaders. It is also important to hold dialogues with candidates to register our concerns and demand that they take all necessary measures to fully address our needs and protect our fundamental human rights,” Dongeto concluded.
February 18, 2016
Food and nutrition security advocates challenged candidates to end hunger and malnutrition, support small farmers, achieve food sufficiency, and address the threat of climate change and natural disasters to food and nutrition.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call in a press forum in Quezon City, lamenting that millions of Filipinos, especially the rural poor, continue to suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
“Steady economic growth has not translated to the improvement of lives of many Filipinos. While there is reduction in the number of people experiencing hunger, there are still a lot that needs to be done to achieve food and nutrition security in the country,” said Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director.
A recent Social Weather Stations survey showed that the 2015 average hunger rate at 13.4 was lowest since 2004. The 2013 National Nutrition Survey, however, found that one in 10 adult Filipinos suffers from chronic energy deficiency. The same survey also showed high prevalence of undernutrition among children – 19.9 percent of children aged 0-5 years were underweight.
The Philippine Coalition of Advocates for Nutrition Security (PhilCAN) attributed hunger and malnutrition in the country to various factors, including natural disasters, climate change and poor governance.
Moreover, the Pambansang Kaisahan ng mga Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP) lamented the sorry state of agriculture in the country, contributing to high prevalence of poverty and hunger among small farmers and rural communities.
“Ang isyu at usapin ng kasiguruhan sa pagkain ay isang pangunahing pangangailan na dapat tugunan ng kasalukuyang pamahalaan. Subalit matapos ang anim taon, nanatiling bigo ang gobyernong Aquino na kagutuman sa kanayunan sapagkat malinaw ang tunguhin ng pamahalaan na mas pangunahing suportahan ang agribusiness sa halip na kalingain ang maliitang pagsasaka,” said Nestor Diego, Secretary General of PKMP.
(Addressing food security should be top priority of the government. After 6 years, the Aquino administration has failed to end hunger, particularly in the countryside. It is clear that this administration favors agribusiness more than it cares for small farmers.)
Meanwhile, Dir. Angel Imperial, spokesperson of the National Food Authority, the main government agency in charge of rice, the country’s staple food, said that they will keep close watch to make sure that rice supply in the country remains sufficient, and prices are stable and relatively low.
“The nation’s food security cannot be overemphasized. After all, food security is synonymous to national security,” added Dir. Imperial.
The 2016 election is a critical opportunity for Filipinos to choose the leaders who will ensure food and security in the country. This will require a commitment to address income inequality and rural poverty by investing in rural economies to increase employment, among others. This will also require a commitment to reform policies and governance structures on food and nutrition security, Dongeto said.
“Filipino voters should elect a government that will deliver on our Sustainable Development Goals commitment and take all necessary measures to address inequalities and emerging issues like climate change to ensure that all people, particularly the poor and vulnerable, are able to access, avail, and consume safe, nutritious and sufficient food at all times,” Dongeto stressed.
For his part, Diego said that it is important that the government support small farmers. “Ang dapat gawin ng pamahalaan upang matugunan ang kasiguruhan sa pagkain at kahirapan ng magbubukid sa kanayunan ay suportahan ang maliliit na magbubukid sa pamamagitan ng seryosong pagpapatupad ng repormang agraryo, itigil ang land conversion sa lupang agrikultural, suporta sa presyo ng produktong palay at pataasin ang kakayahan ng NFA na bilhin ng mas marami ang ani ng magsasaka upang di mapagsamantalahan ng mga traders,” he said.
(To achieve food security and end rural poverty, the government should support small farmers by implementing agrarian reform, preventing conversion of prime agricultural lands to commercial use, influencing the farm-gate price of rice, and strengthening the mandate of the NFA to buy local produce and protect farmers from traders.)
Furthermore, Dyan Aimee Rodriguez, PhilCAN vice lead convener, emphasized that the solution to hunger and malnutrition lies in the collective and concerted effort of all stakeholders, including the private sector.
“We can eradicate malnutrition through consistent and scaled up initiatives, and use of accurate, timely and credible information in designing and monitoring interventions,” she said.
Ensuring children’s proper nutrition during the critical early stages of their development benefits the country in the long run, two party-list lawmakers stressed in a round-table discussion organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with UNICEF Philippines and the National Nutrition Council (NNC), on January 27.
DIWA Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, PLCPD member, cited the benefits of proper nutrition on children’s physical and mental development. Nutrition interventions targeted for mothers and children during the first 1,000 days of life should thus be institutionalized, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, PLCPD vice-chair, added.
Breastmilk, best milk
Drawing from her personal experience with her four-month old daughter, Rep. Aglipay-Villar encouraged breastfeeding as best practice for mothers in nourishing their infants.
“I fell in love with the experience of breastfeeding,” she said. She shared that she insists on breastfeeding her daughter because of its benefits, even if it meant that she had to give up her medication for a sensitive health condition to avoid possible side-effects on her baby.
She noted that breastfeeding lowers the risk of child mortality and added that breastfed children have higher IQ than children fed with bottle or formula milk and have higher productivity as adults.
Rep. Aglipay-Villar also emphasized the need to enable working mothers to breastfeed their babies. She welcomed the Senate approval on third reading of the Extended Maternity Leave bill that allow 100 day-paid maternity leave for employees in both government and private sectors.
She also stressed the importance of milk banks to address the demand from mothers who cannot breastfeed due to health conditions.
Nutrition in first 1,000 days
For her part, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin, PLCPD vice-chair, underscored the importance of nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life, which covers the nine months of pregnancy and the child’s first two years – a critical stage in the physical and cognitive development of a child.
“Investment during this crucial window of opportunity has profound impact on the child and eventually on national development,” Rep. Garin, author of House Bill 5914 or the First 1,000 Days Program, said.
Gains in the 16th Congress
Meanwhile, Dr. Aashima Garg, UNICEF Philippines’ Nutrition Manager, discussed the efforts of UNICEF and PLCPD to push for the First 1,000 Days Program bill in Congress and in mainstreaming the first 1,000 days framework among national and local legislators through close interaction and various learning activities.
UNICEF and PLCPD have been working together to advance legislation that will ensure children’s rights are protected and fulfilled, Dr. Garg shared. She urged the advocates to continue to work together to forward the nutrition agenda this 2016 to sustain the momentum gained last year.
Ms. Nenita Dalde, PLCPD manager for national advocacy, echoed this call. “We have made significant progress on the First 1,000 Days and Extended Maternity bills. We race against time to pass these bills in the 16th Congress but we should remain committed to push for these bills till the last minute,” she said.
The PLCPD forum also gathered government officials and advocates from civil society to discuss policy gaps and come up with policy recommendations to promote maternal and child nutrition in the country.
Among the recommendations agreed upon by the participants are: the immediate enactment of the First 1,000 Days and Extended Maternity Leave bills; active promotion of breastfeeding, complementary feeding, and food fortification; appropriation of sufficient budget to implement nutrition programs; institutionalization of position and benefits of municipal nutrition action officer and barangay nutrition scholars; regulation of marketing of low-nutrition food for children; and immediate food and nutrition relief in emergencies.
Ms. Didi Vega, director of the NNC’s policy division, emphasized the importance of a united stand and consolidated efforts of advocates to strengthen the call for responsive nutrition policies and programs.
Ms. Dalde also urged the advocates should take the opportunity in 2016 elections to mainstream nutrition issues and influence candidates’ platforms.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) called on the government to take all necessary measures to protect children in the Bangsamoro, as some Mindanao lawmakers warned of renewed conflict in the region after the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) was declared “dead” in the House of Representatives last week.
In a press briefing today, Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, expressed concern on the possibility of revived radicalism in the Bangsamoro following the disruption of the peace process and its impact on children.
“Children are most vulnerable in situations of armed conflict,” Dongeto lamented. He cited studies that show profound negative effects of displacement and destruction due to war on children’s physical, psychological and intellectual development.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) approximates that in the Philippines, 30,000 to 50,000 children have been displaced by armed conflict in the past few years.
Meanwhile, government statistics show that children in the Muslim Mindanao lag behind their peers elsewhere in the country in health and education. The poverty incidence in the region in first half of 2014 stood at 54%, the second highest in the country.
The region had the highest stunting prevalence among children aged 0-5 years at 39% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), and the lowest elementary education cohort survival rate in 2013 at 38.65, according to the Mindanao Development Authority.
“In some cases, children are not just victims of war but they become instruments of violence, too, as armed groups recruit and use them as combatants, porters, or human shields,” Dongeto added.
UN has documented 54 and 26 children recruited and used by both state and non-state armed groups in the country in 2011 and 2012, respectively.
“It is the government’s duty to ensure that children are protected and their rights are fulfilled,” Dongeto stressed. He added that the government should work hard to address recruitment and use of children by armed groups, including the Philippine military.
For his part, Rep. Teddy Baguilat, PLCPD vice chair, said that it is highly important to build an enabling environment for children, including non-Islamized indigenous peoples, in the Bangsamoro, where they can realize their fullest potential.
“The children are our future. Investing in children benefits the country in the long run and empowering children is key in building enduring peace in Mindanao,” Rep. Baguilat said.
January 8, 2016
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) decried the defunding of the reproductive health program that will deny poor Filipino couples access to medically safe, non-abortifacient and effective reproductive health care services and commodities.
The Senate removed from the 2016 national budget the P1 billion-fund earmarked by the Department of Health to provide free condoms, IUDs and birth control pills.
“This is unacceptable, especially now that we have a national law specifically mandating the provision of family planning services. It deeply saddens us that the same institution that crafted the Reproductive Health Law agreed to defund its implementation,” Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law was enacted in 2012 after more than 10 years in the legislative mill. It became effective in 2014 after the Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
“This reverses the progress we have achieved so far in promoting reproductive health and ensuring that couples, especially women, are given better choices in planning their families to give their children a better future,” Dongeto lamented.
The contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) for modern family planning has steadily increased in recent years, from 39 percent in 2012 to 46 percent in 2014, according to the Commission on Population. Despite this, seven million Filipino women still have unmet needs in family planning services according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The rise in use of modern family planning methods has contributed to a decrease in maternal mortality ratio, or the number of deaths per 100,000 live births, from 129 in 2013 to 114 in 2015 based on United Nations estimates. This, however, falls short of our Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths to 52 per 100,000 live births.
“Without sufficient funding for family planning, we will not be able to achieve our goals to improve maternal health, especially of poor and young mothers,” Dongeto said.
Dongeto added that denying couples better reproductive health choices impacts their health, as well as their capacity to provide their children adequate food, healthcare and education, with far-reaching implications on country’s workforce productivity and national economy.
He urged the DOH to aggressively pursue other sources of funds to sustain the provision of reproductive health services and supplies.
“We cannot stand idle knowing women and families are denied their rights. We have to defend their right to better reproductive health and a brighter future,” Dongeto said.
New year, big challenges: Addressing the needs of growing PH population
January 5, 2016
The Commission on Population projects that the country’s population will balloon to 104 million this year. This means an increase in the demand for basic needs, such as food and nutrition, health services, housing, and protection against violence and emerging threats like climate change.
The country is lagging behind its goals to end hunger and undernutrition. According to the Social Weather Stations, 3.5 million Filipinos experienced hunger in the third quarter of 2015. The Food and Nutrition Research Institute reported in 2013 that one in ten Filipino adults suffer from chronic energy deficiency, while 19.9% of children aged 0-5 years are underweight. With more mouths to feed in 2016, the challenge to eradicate hunger and undernutrition becomes even bigger.
Ensuring babies’ health and nutrition does not only require providing proper and sufficient nourishment once they are born but also even before they come out to the world. Expecting mothers should thus be provided adequate information and healthcare.
Access to information and services on family planning also prepares couples to become responsible parents. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law was enacted in 2012 and yet there remains a lot of challenges in its implementation.
Aside from food and health, people need adequate housing. As natural disasters grow more extreme due to climate change and threaten to displace growing communities, providing adequate housing to vulnerable families becomes more urgent. Adequate housing is not just about resilient structures to live in, but shelters with access to basic utilities, sustainable livelihood and essential services such as healthcare and education.
The 1.5 million babies to be born in 2016 also ought to live and grow in a peaceful surrounding. Children are among the most vulnerable sectors in armed conflict and often victims of domestic violence. If raised in an environment of conflict and violence, these children may become agents of violence themselves, continuing the vicious cycle that has shaped their parents.
The challenge to address these growing needs lies primarily in the government. As the country reaffirms its commitment to building a prosperous and peaceful world via the Sustainable Development Goals, the government must take all necessary measures to eliminate the root causes of poverty and hunger, conflict and violence.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development thus urges the government to step up efforts to meet the increasing demands and ensure that all people are provided their basic needs to lead productive lives.
It takes however the cooperation of all stakeholders, especially the people themselves, to achieve our goals. The 2016 elections open an opportunity for the people to elect leaders who will take on the challenge and hold them accountable in each step of the struggle to build a brighter future for all Filipinos.
December 18, 2015
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) gathered women’s rights and reproductive health advocates on December 11 to discuss women’s issues, especially how to address the challenges in the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.
Mr. Klaus Beck, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Philippines Country Representative, opened the program, underscoring in his speech that the Philippine government should protect and fulfill the right of women to reproductive health.
“It is the duty of states to ensure on the basis of equality of men and women, access to healthcare, information and education. It implies an obligation to respect, protect, and fulfill the rights of women to health,” he said.
Mr. Beck added that “women [should] be given the opportunity to decide and act in pursuit of their health goals even at times of disasters.”
Recent gains in women’s health and rights
Atty. Liezl Parajas, former head of the Commission on Human Rights’ Women’s Human Rights Center, discussed the recent gains in promoting women’s rights. She commended the enactment of pro-women legislation, such as the Magna Carta of Women, the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children (VAWC) Act, and the RPRH Law, which articulated the right of women to reproductive health (RH) and protection against abuse and violence.
She also noted the free provision of HPV vaccines to girls and women and the recent DepEd order integrating sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) into the school curriculum. She added that an Executive Order designating a separate subject on human rights in colleges and universities, including law and medical schools, is already in the pipeline.
Despite the gains in recent years, the struggle to fully achieve women’s rights and health continues.
Mr. Beck lamented the lack of access to healthcare and family planning (FP) information and services, which contributes to the high rate of maternal mortality rate and teenage pregnancy, and high prevalence of early and enforced marriages. He also stressed the need to address the unique, if not graver, challenges indigenous women, differently-abled women, rural and urban poor women are facing.
Atty. Parajas also expressed concern about the constitutional challenges in the Supreme Court and anti-RH executive issuances in Manila and Sorsogon that undermine the RPRH Law. She urged the strengthening of the mandate of the CHR to impose its resolutions articulating women’s rights and health.
Meanwhile, Ms. Aida Santos-Maranan, executive director of WeDpro, Inc., pointed out the adverse impact of natural disasters and armed conflict on health, especially among the poor.
Ms. Beth Angsioco, president of Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines (DSWP), also lamented the poor implementation of women’s rights-related laws and stressed the importance of grassroots work to empower women.
Best practices moving forward
For her part, former Albay Rep. and Tabaco City Mayor Krisel Lagman-Luistro emphasized the need to involve men and inculcate male responsibility in family planning and in the reproductive health advocacy.
“The Philippine Family Planning Program has focused exclusively on women and I think it is because the women are the ones who bear children [but] studies have shown that involving men in family planning has contributed in contraceptive acceptance because the decision-making of women relies on the decision-making of men,” she said.
She shared about the success of her “Usapang Macho” initiative while she was Tabaco City mayor. The program engaged padyak (pedicab) drivers in seminars on family planning and health consciousness. Under her leadership, the Tabaco local government also provided free vasectomy for men and ligation for women and built health facilities and lie-in clinics to provide antenatal care and facility-based delivery for pregnant women.
She also stressed the importance of committed political leadership and establishing partnerships with civil society organizations (CSOs) in implementing family planning and reproductive health programs.
After the discussion on the gains and challenges in women’s rights and health, the participants identified priority issues and came up with recommendations to the legislative and executive branches to consider. Among the recommendations to executive departments and agencies are: ensuring sufficient budget appropriation to fund the implementation of different women’s rights-related policies and programs, engaging CSOs in the policy-making and program implementation and oversight; mainstreaming human rights, gender sensitivity and SRHR in schools and government offices; and, improving access of differently-abled persons and indigenous peoples to information and health services.
On the other hand, advocates want the 17th Congress to prioritize the review of existing laws and the enactment of new laws that will empower women, the youth, and LGBTs in pursuing their health and general well-being, such as: divorce; protection from street harassment; comprehensive sex education; expanded maternity benefits; disaster risk reduction and management; and HIV prevention.
For his part, Rep. Teddy Baguilat sees the upcoming elections as an opportunity to demand rights of women and human rights in general.
“[To build] champions, [we have to] make women’s rights an electoral issue. The movement must go down, the issues must cascade,” Rep. Baguilat said.
In his closing remarks, PLCPD Executive Director Romeo Dongeto echoed Rep. Baguilat’s sentiment. “Reforms must be based on strong people’s movement at the forefront,” he concluded.
Sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all at all times
December 15, 2015
As we commemorate Human Rights Month this December, we should ponder upon the situation of many Filipinos who are deprived of the fundamental right to adequate food.
Despite efforts to address hunger and malnutrition in the country, 15.7 percent of households or about three and a half million Filipinos went hungry at least one in the third quarter of 2015, according to the Social Weather Stations (SWS).
A UN World Food Programme/Rappler survey conducted in August to September 2015 among 1,600 respondents from the 16 poorest provinces in the Philippines also showed that 26% percent of households experienced food shortage almost every month in the past 12 months.
Wasting (“too thin for their height”) among children 0-5 years increased from 6.2% in 1989 to 7.9% in 2013 and stunting (“too short for their age”) remains high at 30.3% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. The period between 0 to 5 years, especially the first 1,000 days of a child’s life (the nine months in the mother’s womb and the child’s first two years), is critical in the child’s physical and cognitive development.
The problem on hunger and malnutrition is exacerbated by our vulnerability to climate change. Armed conflict also aggravates the situation of thousands of families, especially children, in Mindanao.
The country’s adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to end poverty, empower people, protect the environment and build partnerships for lasting peace and prosperity, should reenergize our efforts to finally achieve food security.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 21) guarantee the right to adequate food of all peoples. It is our duty to fulfill this fundamental human right.
It is upon the power of the government, however, to effect long-term and sustainable solutions to hunger and malnutrition.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) thus urges the government to take all necessary steps to mitigate vulnerabilities and address threats to food security such as climate change and armed conflict, increase food production, ensure food safety and nutritious quality, and close the widening inequality that compromises people’s access to food.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) convened on Wednesday, December 9 development-oriented and human rights organizations to stand in solidarity with survivors of Supertyphoon Yolanda in the struggle to claim their right to adequate housing and recognize the contributions of ICCO Cooperation in rebuilding affected communities.
ICCO Cooperation, an international non-governmental organization has been in the country since 1968, working on various advocacies including social justice, agrarian reform, rural development and popular empowerment. ICCO has been supporting PLCPD in many of the latter’s campaigns and initiatives on human development issues such as environmental protection, social enterprise, and business and human rights.
When ‘Yolanda’ struck the Philippines in November 2013, ICCO mobilized its partner-organizations to distribute relief goods, provide psycho-social aid, shelter and livelihood assistance, and capacitate people’s organizations. ICCO also tapped PLCPD to review existing policies and programs on post-Yolanda rehabilitation and engage lawmakers to enact new legislation that will address bottlenecks in its implementation.
“It’s been two years since ‘Yolanda’ and yet thousands of families still live in danger zones or in transitional houses that lack basic utilities and livelihood opportunities,” Romeo C. Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, lamented.
“Adequate housing is a fundamental human right that guarantees all peoples not just four walls and a roof to live in but a suitable place to call home safe from natural hazards and with access to sustainable livelihood,” Hon. Etta Ann Rosales, former Commission on Human Rights chairperson, who graced the solidarity event, said.
Under her leadership, CHR came up with a report that lays down the human rights standards on housing, land and property rights of populations affected by ‘Yolanda’.
Rosales admitted though that the challenge to fully rehabilitate affected communities and fulfill the rights of ‘Yolanda’ survivors remains huge.
For his part, Rep. Rodel Batocabe said that we should work together to rebuild these communities and come up with long-term and sustainable solutions that will address their increasing vulnerability to disasters because of climate change.
Rep. Teddy Baguilat expressed hope that with the collective action of organizations such as PLCPD and ICCO, we could build a more sustainable, safer and resilient future.
The organizations present during the event committed their continuing active involvement for this advocacy, as they thanked ICCO for supporting them throughout the years.
PLCPD also launched a mini-documentary entitled Pagtindog (To Rise Up) where Yolanda survivors recalled their experiences during ‘Yolanda’ and shared how ICCO’s interventions have helped them to rebuild their lives and communities.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) facilitated a learning and strategy session on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) attended by different congressional committees on October 28-29, at Sol y Viento Hotel Mountain Hot Spring Resort in Calamba, Laguna.
National Economic and Development Authority’s representative Michael Provido led the discussion on the country’s progress and the challenges the country faced in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The MDGs ended in 2015 with missed targets on reducing hunger, improving maternal health, providing access to modern family planning methods, closing the gender gap, increasing cohort survival in school and stopping the spread of HIV.
The recently promulgated SDGs build on the progress in the MDGs and seek to fully realize its promise, Provido said. The SDGs aim to end poverty, empower people, protect the environment and build partnerships for lasting peace and prosperity.
Some participants from Congress, however, expressed concern that localizing the SDGs could prove to be a huge challenge. It is important, they said, that the policymaking and planning process on the SDGs be more inclusive and transparent.
For her part, Ms. Luisa Lim-Jolongbayan, Head of the Management Support Unit at United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Philippines, emphasized the willingness and initiative of UN agencies to help countries to achieve SDGs.
Experts from various sectors also talked about specific sectoral issues. Atty. Anjanette Saguisag, Social Policy Specialist of UNICEF Philippines, discussed the stakes for children in the SDGs. Mr. Lolito Tacardon, Regional Director of Commission on Population, talked about how the SDGs impact population. Dr. Marilen Danguilan, Senior Policy Adviser of UN World Food Programme-Philippines (WFP) discussed issues on food and nutrition security that need to be addressed.
They urged the review of the current legislative actions, pending policies and bills which are critical in the preparation for and success of the SDGs.
On the other hand, Mr. Isagani Serrano, President of the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, shared the perspective of civil society organizations, underscoring the need to identify and understand the root of the problems to arrive at sustainable solutions.
But according to one of the resource speakers, focusing on the three factors—road systems, water and electricity—are critical in gradually reducing poverty.
Among the participants in this learning session were secretaries and staff of the following congressional offices and committees: Congressional Policy and Budget Research Office, Special Committee on MDGs, Special Committee on Reforestation, Special Committee on Food Security, Special Committee on Climate Change, Committee on Women and Gender Equality, Committee on the Welfare of Children, Committee on Public Information, Committee on Poverty Alleviation, Committee on National Cultural Communities, Committee on Mindanao Affairs, Committee on Human Rights, Committee on Health, Committee on Government Enterprises and Privatization, Committee on Energy, Committee on Economic Affairs and Committee on Ecology.
This learning session was organized by PLCPD in partnership with House of Representatives Special Committee on the MDGs, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and with the support of ICCO Cooperation and WFP.
With the continuing support from these partners, PLCPD will continue to lead the discussion on the effective and efficient implementation and monitoring and evaluation of SDGs; and will mainstream the SDGs and make meaningful legislation to ensure that the new goals will be achieved.
#RememberYolanda Poster-Making Competition
It’s been two years after Supertyphoon Yolanda hit the Philippines. But for many families, the storm is yet to pass. Thousands of families still live in transitional shelters without basic utilities and far from their children’s schools and sources of income. Others still live in danger zones.
Adequate housing is a basic human right. Disaster survivors deserve the full support of everyone in rebuilding their homes, in rebuilding their lives.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), together with ICCO Cooperation, invites everyone to participate in this poster-making competition as we commemorate the second anniversary of Yolanda and call for a more coherent policy and committed leadership on post-disaster housing and disaster risk reduction and management.
Remember Yolanda. Build resilient communities.
All entries to the competition must be a poster with the theme “Adequate housing for Yolanda survivors!” and designed by either an individual artist or group. Design to be submitted must be all-original, unpublished, and not previously submitted to other competitions.
Any medium may be used but design must be on 1/8 illustration board (10 in. x 15 in.) and in landscape (horizontal) format. Photos of entries must be submitted electronically as attachment to email. Entries must be sent to email@example.com (cc: firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject “Entry to #RememberYolanda poster-making contest” before or by end of 30 November 2015. Please include the following information in your email:
– Title of poster
– Material used (e.g. watercolor, oil pastel)
– Full name
– Landline and mobile numbers
PLCPD will pick the top seven entries. Original versions of these top seven entries will be featured during a high-impact event in commemoration of the second anniversary of Yolanda and International Human Rights Week. Copies of the top seven entries will be featured in PLCPD’s 2016 calendar. Modest cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.
1st prize P10,000
2nd prize P7,000
3rd prize P5,000
4th-7th prize P3,000
Participants may submit multiple entries but can qualify in the top seven only once. List of winning entries will be posted online in the first week of December 2015. Winners will be contacted directly by PLCPD.
For inquiries, please contact Au Quilala via email at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at +63-2-7096480, mobile at +63-9166439715. Thank you!
PLCPD is a non-profit organization of national lawmakers working together to advance human development in the Philippines through legislation. For more information, visit our website at plcpd.org.ph or follow us online: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram: PLCPD1989.
October 22, 2015
Two years after Yolanda hit the Visayas, groups lamented that thousands of families still live in unsafe zones, in transitional homes or in relocation sites that lack basic utilities and access to sources of livelihood.
Advocacy groups led by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLPCD), NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) and Oxfam Philippines staged today a symbolic action to urge the government to fulfill the right to adequate housing of Yolanda survivors and give them access to livelihood and basic services.
Only 28.3 percent of the P76.678 billion funding requirement has been released for implementation, and only 73,000 housing units out of the 205,128 target are currently being built, according to Social Watch Philippines.
Algina Lacaba, leader of internally displaced familes in Tacloban, said that 83 percent of affected families still live in danger zones. Only 487 of 14,000 families needing permanent housing have been relocated yet the resettlement sites lack basic utilities such as water and electricity, she added.
Losanto “Ka Jun” Castillo, Jr., leader of fisherfolk community in Tacloban, also complained that relocation sites are far from their sources of livelihood.
“Adequate housing is a basic human right. The government should speed up the implementation of housing projects that meet human rights standards before disaster strikes again,” Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
Advocates also urged Congress to enact laws that will ensure swift rehabilitation for disaster survivors and to step up initiatives on climate change adaptation, such as integrating risk analysis of natural hazards in land use and disaster risk reduction (DRR) plans.
PLCPD, NFR and Oxfam along with other civil society organizations and government agencies earlier formed a technical working group (TWG) that drafted comments on and recommendations for post-disaster housing. These recommendations were presented to the House of Representatives Special Committee on Climate Change last week.
October 12, 2015
Civil society groups urged today the House of Representatives Special Committee on Climate Change to summon relevant government agencies to explain the slow implementation of housing projects for Yolanda survivors.
Dennis Calvan, executive director of NGOs for Fisheries Reform, led the call, noting that almost two years after Yolanda, thousands of families in affected areas still live in unsafe zones and in transitional houses, while permanent resettlement sites lack basic utilities such as water and electricity. Families who relocated to permanent resettlement sites also complain of the additional costs entailed by the distance of their new homes from their sources of income and their children’s schools, Calvan added.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) has convened a technical working group (TWG), composed of various civil society groups, to work on policy proposals based on a PLCPD study that documented various issues in post-Yolanda housing.
The PLCPD study on government policies on post-Yolanda housing found out incoherent policies particularly in identifying permanent resettlement sites. The study also noted that some areas in Samar and Leyte have yet to receive any government support to affected communities.
Social Watch Philippines reported in June that only 28.3 percent of the P76.678-billion funding requirement has been downloaded for implementation and only 73,000 housing units out of the 205,128-demand are currently being built.
The TWG urged the government to speed up Yolanda rehabilitation efforts, particularly on housing, in Yolanda-affected areas and lay out a clear and concrete plan to ensure that such a disaster will not happen again.
“We need to harmonize and coordinate programs and policies to facilitate immediate and effective disaster preparedness, response, and rehabilitation,” Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said.
“Adequate housing lies at the core of building resilient and sustainable communities, especially amid the growing threat of climate change,” Dongeto added.
ILOILO City, October 9—The “fast and furious” increase of new HIV infections in the country requires a stronger law for HIV, groups said on Friday.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call on lawmakers to work double-time to pass a law providing for comprehensive HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, amending Republic Act 8504 or the National AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.
The Philippines has now the fastest growing HIV epidemic in the world, according to the World Health Organization. The number of HIV cases in the country has dramatically increased in recent years, totalling 27,138 cases since 1984. In July 2015, 682 new HIV cases were reported, according to the HIV/AIDS Registry of the Philippines.
The number of HIV cases, however, only account for less than 1 percent of the total Philippine population and remains concentrated on males having sex with males (MSM), persons who inject drugs, and sex workers. Nevertheless, around 28 percent of the cases documented so far this year are among young people (15-24 years old) – a fact that gravely concerns advocates.
Under RA 8504, minors are prohibited from accessing HIV testing and other related services without written parental or guardian consent – a legal barrier PLCPD wants to be removed. Easing access of minors to HIV testing is consistent with their right to make decisions, based on their evolving capacities, regarding their own health and well-being, PLCPD said in a statement.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes the evolving capacities of children (persons 17 years old and below) – a principle holding that “as children acquire enhanced competencies, there is a reduced need for direction and a greater capacity to take responsibility for decisions affecting their lives.”
Mr. Augusto Rodriguez, UNICEF Philippines Social Policy Specialist, reiterated this argument and added that in designing HIV programs and services, the best interests and welfare of children must always be considered.
For her part, PLCPD vice chairperson, AAMBIS-OWA Rep. Sharon Garin said that “while we do recognize the critical role of the parents in guiding their children based on how they think should be their children’s way as they tread the path of life, studies from experts and testimonials from health service providers continue to show how vulnerable young people are to acquiring different sexually transmitted infections because of the influences that abound from the internet, peer pressure and insufficient age-appropriate information, education and communication materials.”
“We have to make the law responsive to the present context where we have an alarming ‘fast and furious’ HIV epidemic,” Rep. Garin added. She co-authored House Bill 5178 repealing RA 8504, which was passed on third reading by the Lower House in December 2014.
In the Senate, the bill is pending in the Committee on Health and Demography chaired by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
As part of the continuing efforts to call the attention of lawmakers to prioritize the passage of the bill, PLCPD organized today at Esplanade Iloilo a creative advocacy event titled, “ALL IN: Leave No One Behind as We Race to End AIDS”. For this event, PLCPD partnered with the offices of Congresswoman Sharon Garin, the Iloilo Provincial Health Office, DOH, DepEd, PopCom, DILG, PNP, PIA, Family Planning Organization of the Philippines, Office of Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor and Office of Iloilo City Mayor Jed Mabilog, with support from UNICEF Philippines.
October 6, 2015
Advocacy group Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) urged Congress to prioritize the enactment of important measures that will address food insecurity in the country, following the UN General Assembly adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on September 25.
The new sustainable development framework comprises of 17 bold goals hailed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as “universal, integrated, transformative vision for a better world.” Signed by all 193 members of the UN General Assembly, this new set of goals aims to eradicate poverty in all its forms by 2030. Number two in the list is ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.
“The Philippine government should take seriously its commitment to these goals and deliver on its promise to the Filipino people of a better future,” Dongeto added.
According to Dongeto, achieving food security will require the enactment of strong policies that will address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition in the country.
The World Food Programme defines food security as “when all people, at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
Dongeto said that to achieve this, Congress should prioritize deliberations and enactment of pending bills that seek to: reform the bureaucracy in the food security sector to improve implementation of existing policies on agrarian reform, irrigation, and support for small farmers, among others; mitigate vulnerabilities and address threats to food security such as climate change and armed conflict; and close the widening inequality that compromises people’s access to food.
Data shows how recent economic growth has not translated to improving food security of millions of Filipino families.
In 2014, the Philippine economy grew by 6.1 percent but poverty incidence increased to 25.8 percent in the first semester. In the second quarter of 2015, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew to 5.6 percent; however, 12.7 percent of Filipino families went hungry, according to the Social Weather Stations.
“The problem in hunger and malnutrition is exacerbated by our vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change. The fact that we are second most vulnerable country to natural hazards, out of 171 countries, based on the 2014 World Risk Index, should make us more concerned about food insecurity in the country,” Dongeto lamented.
Recognizing that Congress has other priorities and legislators shifting to election mode in the few remaining session days, Dongeto said that no challenge is insurmountable if our leaders have the political will and the heart for the people.
September 2, 2015
Pervasive poverty, hunger and malnutrition in the country endanger our future, champions and experts on food security and nutrition warned in a forum organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) last August 28 at the Marco Polo Hotel in Ortigas, Pasig City.
“Food security is a matter of national security that requires strong government intervention and multisectoral efforts,” Butil Party-list Rep. Agapito Guanlao said.
The issue becomes more relevant, Bukidnon Rep. Joey Zubiri, vice chair of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, as the country faces natural vulnerabilities such as geography and changing environmental and economic contexts, including climate change and globalization.
The World Food Programme defines food security as “when all people, at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
A multi-faceted issue
“Food security is grounded on four critical elements: availability, accessibility, utilization, and stability,” Dr. Marilen Danguilan, adviser to WFP Philippines, said.
It encompasses a wide range of issues, from economic liberalization to national and local governance, employment and education to health and social welfare, agriculture to trade, land use to agrarian reform, energy to transportation, research and technology to disaster resiliency, Danguilan added.
Guanlao, who chaired the House Special Committee on Food Security for five years, also stressed that food insecurity is deeply linked to poverty. “Hunger dwells where poverty resides,” he said.
Ang NARS Party-list Rep. Leah Paquiz echoed Guanlao’s assessment, emphasizing that chronic hunger is caused by powerlessness.
Policy and governance problems
“The challenge to achieve food security remains huge despite the existence of many laws and agencies that supposedly address hunger and malnutrition in the country,” Danguilan lamented.
Poor implementation of laws and the fragmented and overlapping mandates of government agencies on food security only exacerbate the problem, she said.
“An overhaul of existing policies and programs on food security is needed,” Zubiri added.
Danguilan urged the government to provide the necessary support to medium- and small-scale enterprises as an anti-poverty pillar.She also called for strengthening social protection to tip the scale in favor of the marginalized and underprivileged, particularly in the labor and agriculture sector.
Interagency coordination and accountability
Danguilan also underscored the importance of ensuring effective and efficient implementation of policies on food security by enhancing integration and coordination among various agencies.
Guanlao suggested that the best way to enhance interagency coordination is creating a cabinet-level National Food Security Council.
On the other hand, AAMBIS-Owa Rep. Sharon Garin wants to strengthen the National Nutrition Council.
“There is also the need to institutionalize government interventions and initiatives on the first 1,000 days of life, a critical period in child development that covers the nine months of pregnancy and the child’s first two years,” Garin said.
For her part, Paquiz pledges support for Barangay Nutrition Scholars who are at the forefront of promoting proper nutrition and good health.
Support farmers and fisherfolk
Furthermore, Danguilan urged the completion of land distribution to tenant-farmers under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law.
“Prime agricultural lands should also be protected,” Guanlao said. He lamented the conversion of vast tracks of prime agricultural lands for commercial and residential use, which could have been prevented if only a national land use law is passed.
Support for farmers should not end in land distribution. Beneficiaries of agrarian reform should be capacitated for long-term sustainability, he added.
Capacity-building and technology transfer to increase and maintain productivity was also one of Garin’s suggestions to ensure sustainability. She also suggested crop diversification.
Guanlao added that among other critical interventions needed to promote high-yield agricultural production are irrigation, and access to low-interest credit and subsidies.
Moreover, Zubiri said that the government should lead the so-called “blue revolution” to maximize the country’s rich maritime resources.
Lastly, to achieve food and nutrition security, Ako Bikol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said, we need to have culture change—a shift in paradigm that will give utmost priority to adequate food, proper nutrition and good health.
For him, the problem lies in communication. The media, which plays a critical role in influencing people’s consciousness, should be tapped to effectively disseminate essential information on food and nutrition security, Batocabe concluded.
Why do people go hungry in the midst of plenty?
Despite steady economic growth in the past few years and progress in fighting hunger and malnutrition, millions of Filipinos remain poor and food insecure.
In 2014, the Philippine economy grew by 6.1 percent but poverty incidence increased to 25.8 percent in the first semester. In the second quarter of 2015, the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by 5.6 percent, however, 12.7 percent of Filipino families went hungry, according to the Social Weather Stations. While this figure is the lowest recorded since 2005 and exceeds our Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to halve the proportion of people suffering from hunger, the country still falls short of the World Food Summit target of reducing the number of hungry people by 2015.
The persistent problem in hunger and malnutrition is exacerbated by our vulnerability to disasters and climate change. The Philippines was ranked second out of 171 countries in the 2014 World Risk Index and second out of 181 countries in the 2014 Global Climate Risk Index. Sporadic conflict in Mindanao causing disruption in food production and supply also aggravates the hunger situation in the region. The region had the highest stunting prevalence among children aged 0-5 years at 39% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).
Indeed, the challenge to cascade the benefits of economic development to the great majority of the people remains huge. Recent economic growth has not translated to improved conditions on the ground. As the wealth of a few grows, the stomach of the many continues to growl.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development thus calls on the government to step up its efforts in eradicating hunger and malnutrition. It should enhance coordination among relevant agencies, and ensure the proper implementation of existing policies and programs to address food insecurity.
We urge Congress to expedite deliberations and prioritize the enactment of pending proposals that seek to: reform the bureaucracy in the food security sector, mitigate vulnerabilities and address threats to food security such as climate change and armed conflict, and close the widening inequality that compromises people’s access to food.
Investing in food security and proper nutrition does not only benefit individuals and their families but also shapes the future of the country.
Adequate food is essential to people’s total intellectual and physical development – increasing our productivity, improving our performance, and, in the larger social context, building a stronger nation.
Economic development should not leave behind any one. Inclusive growth means that every household has adequate food on the table. Food and nutrition security hold the key to a brighter tomorrow. It is our duty to make it a reality today.
August 26, 2015
Children’s rights advocates called on lawmakers to pass a Bangsamoro law that will prohibit recruitment of children as combatants and protect children affected by armed conflict.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) made the call in a press conference today, as both houses of Congress deliberate their respective versions of the proposed law.
The rights-oriented group urged the House of Representatives to strengthen Article VIII Sec. 12 of its own version of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) by including provisions banning the recruitment of persons under 18 years by any armed group, recognizing the right of children to participation, and protecting children affected by armed conflict.
PLCPD also called on the Senate to preserve Section 77 Article VIII of Senate Bill 2894 that already lays down a strong mandate to the envisioned Bangsamoro regional government to respect, protect and actively promote the rights of children.
Senate version’s Section 77 recognizes the right of children to participation and prohibits the recruitment of children as soldiers and combatants. It also guarantees the care and protection of children of children in conflict situations. The House version passed by the Ad Hoc Committee on the Bangsamoro Basic Law lacks these specific provisions.
Rights of a child
“As signatory of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), we have to ensure that the Bangsamoro regional government will create opportunities for children’s meaningful participation in the crafting and implementation of policies and programs that will affect them,” Dongeto stressed.
“The CRC recognizes the evolving capacities of children,” he explained. “This principle holds that, as they grow and learn, children develop greater competence and autonomy to make and take responsibility for decisions that affect their lives.”
For his part, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, PLCPD vice chair, said that the needs and best interests of children should be top priority in the Bangsamoro. “When it is the children’s future that is at stake, we should not let the adults do all the talking. The voice of children, no matter how small, should be heard,” the Ifugao legislator stressed.
The CRC also provides for the protection of children in armed conflict, as the UN laments the negative impact of war on the development and well-being of children.
Children and armed conflict
Studies have shown that displacement of whole communities, destruction of schools and homes, separation of families, and disruption in the delivery of health services and in food supply due to war, cause profound physical and psychological effects on children, ranging from fear to low self-esteem, from depression to aggressive behavior.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) approximates that in the Philippines, 30,000 to 50,000 children have been displaced by armed conflict in the past few years. UN also documented 54 children recruited and used by both state and non-state armed groups in the country.
Government statistics show that children in the Muslim Mindanao lag behind their peers elsewhere in the country in health and education. The poverty incidence in the region in first half of 2014 stood at 54%, the second highest in the country.
The region had the highest stunting prevalence among children aged 0-5 years at 39% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), and the lowest elementary education cohort survival rate in 2013 at 38.65, according to the Mindanao Development Authority.
“Children are among the most vulnerable sectors of society and war only exacerbates their insecurity. We have to ensure that the Bangsamoro law will enable them to reach their fullest potential. Empowering children entails building the road towards enduring peace in the region,” Dongeto said.
August 19, 2015
Committed to expand its membership and develop new champions to forward population and development agenda, the Local Legislators’ League on Population, Health, Environment and Development (3LPHED) gathered local officials in Leyte on August 14, 2015 to formalize its newest provincial chapter.
Led by 3LPHED national president Leyte Vice Governor Carlo P. Loreto, 83 local officials packed the Legislative Building at the Capitol Grounds in Tacloban City. The 3LPHED Leyte Chapter members include vice mayors, councilors and Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) presidents from 16 municipalities in Leyte.
This new addition to the 3LPHED family will strengthen the organization’s ability to champion, articulate, and concretize appropriate and sustainable responses to issues affecting Philippine society, national coordinator Rio Magpayo said.
For his part, Vice Governor Loreto assured that with the formation of its Leyte chapter, 3LPHED will continue to contribute for the attainment of a just and humane society where basic needs are addressed and citizens embrace positive change by actively advocating socially responsible legislations on population, health, environment and development for an improved quality of life for all.
Hon. Nicomedes Alde, ABC president of Babatngon, was elected president of the Leyte chapter. Also elected were: Myra V. Nalda, vice president for District 1; Louis C. Sudario, vice president for District 2; Cecilio C. Ecalla, vice president for District 3; Catalina L. Tolero, vice president for District 4; Schubert A. Riños, vice president for District 5.
They will be assisted by: Jose M. Advincula, secretary general; Erwin M. Cernal, assistant secretary general; Board Member Mesias Arevalo, treasurer; Board Member Emmanuel Gacis, assistant treasurer; Edward Jay A. Durante, auditor; Roque F. Rojas Jr., assistant auditor; and, Judy J. Sosing, business manager.
“The 3PLHED Leyte Chapter will come together to develop ideas and materialize movements to address concerns on population, health, and environment in the province,” Vice Governor Loreto said in parting.
At the moment, 3LPHED has members in 17 provinces with a roster of 200 members and 10 provincial chapters formed. Registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission since 2007, the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development serves as its Secretariat.
Protect the right to adequate housing, speed up post-Yolanda resettlement
August 11, 2015
Almost two years after Yolanda pounded Visayas, thousands of families still live in “unsafe zones” without shelter assistance from the government. Some of them face the threat of forced eviction, like 3,000 families in Tacloban as reported by the National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines in June. Meanwhile, those who relocated to permanent houses complain about the substandard quality of the houses and the lack of basic utilities. Resettlement sites are also far from the sources of livelihood for many residents. On the other hand, those who wanted to relocate do not have a suitable place to go to.
A recent report from Social Watch Philippines revealed that only 28.3 percent of the P76.678-billion funding requirement has been downloaded for implementation and only 73,000 housing units out of the 205,128-demand are currently being built.
Indeed, there has been a significant delay in the implementation of government resettlement programs. The lack of clear and concrete policy to hasten post-disaster resettlement compromises post-disaster resettlement and adequate housing.
The absence of a responsive land use plan in many disaster-risk areas, which should integrate risk analysis of natural hazards, as well as bottlenecks in identifying and acquiring land appropriate for resettlement of residents living in unsafe zones are just among the issues that need to be resolved.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hence calls on the government to protect people’s right to adequate housing as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions such as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The right to adequate housing comprises the following: security of land tenure, affordability and resilience of houses, availability of services and infrastructure, accessibility and location in safe areas, and cultural adequacy. Adequate housing also relates to security and access to other basic services including health care, education, and employment.
To fulfill this, we urge the government to institutionalize the necessary measures to speed up resettlement efforts in Yolanda-stricken areas and lay out a clear and concrete plan to ensure that victims of future disasters are quickly rehabilitated to safe, secure, and sustainable housing.
The government should also pursue the enactment of a national land use law that will provide guidance and support for the adoption of hydro-meteorological maps in local zoning and land use planning.
Moreover, the government should harmonize disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) policies and strengthen coordination between local and national agencies to facilitate immediate and efficient disaster response and recovery. More importantly, the government should adopt a people-centered, multisectoral approach to DRRM, empowering and capacitating communities in the face of growing threat from disasters and climate change.
Two years have been too long. And we cannot afford to wait for another disaster to happen for us to act. We owe it to those who perished and to those they left behind to work together with a strong sense of sustainable and resilient future.
July 30, 2015
Children are among the most vulnerable segments of society to the adverse effects of disasters. Their rights to survival, development, protection, and participation should then be prioritized in making and implementing policies and programs on disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM).
This should be among the concerns of relevant government agencies and other authorities as Metro Manila prepares for the eventuality of a huge tremor emanating from the West Valley Fault system with a metro-wide earthquake drill.
The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) has alerted the public that the West Valley Fault, which passes through various cities in the metro and nearby provinces, may cause a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, resulting in 30,000 deaths and 100,000 injuries.
The country’s location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and at the edge of the Pacific typhoon belt exposes millions of Filipinos to great risks from natural hazards such as the feared “big one” in Metro Manila. In fact, a recent study by British risk analysis firm Verisk Maplecroft showed that eight Philippine cities are among the top 10 cities that are most vulnerable to earthquakes, storms, and other disasters. Moreover, the growing threat of climate change exposes Filipinos to more disasters.
Disasters endanger lives and compromise the delivery of basic social services, especially to children. Despite this, little space is provided for children to be able to meaningfully participate in the crafting of policies and programs on disaster risk reduction and management. As a result, existing DRRM policies and programs are not responsive to the specific needs and demands of children, exacerbating their vulnerability.
The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) mandates State Parties to take into utmost consideration the best interests of children in their programs and policies. CRC also recognizes the evolving capacities of children, acknowledging that children develop enhanced competencies that enable them to make decisions on their own. The UNCRC likewise guarantees children’s right to freely express their views and opinion on matters that affect them.
Research shows that children hold great potential in making tangible contributions to DRMM policies. A study by the Institute of Development Studies and Children in a Changing Climate Coalition in 2009 showed that children provide holistic and long-term perspective in analyzing disaster risks and can communicate their analysis to peers and parents. Their optimistic attitude translates into action and can influence adults in mobilizing resources to address disasters.
As a country that has a good track record in legislation for children and as State Party to the CRC, the Philippines must provide opportunities for children to participate in the policymaking process to ensure that government climate-related and disaster-related policies and programs protect and fulfill children’s rights and needs. It is not enough that children are included in drills and other activities for disaster preparedness.
Children should be given an active role in the formulation of their community disaster preparedness plans and in information and awareness drives in their communities. One opportunity where children can participate substantially is their inclusion in national and local DRRM councils.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) supports the call for the institutionalization of children’s participation in different stages of disaster risk reduction and management. The ongoing review of R.A. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010 should not miss this serious concern and should duly consider children in improving the law.
July 30, 2015
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) gathered key Eastern Samar local officials on July 22-23, in Tacloban City, to review the province’s Gender and Development (GAD) Code.
Present were provincial board members Karen Alvarez and Jenny Baldono. Joining them were: Maydolong Vice Mayor Daniel Baldono; Dr. Marian Isiderio, Provincial Health Officer (PHO); Dr. Elena de Luna, Eastern Samar Schools Division Superintendent; Estelita Afable, Provincial Social Welfare and Development Officer (PSWDO); Dr. Ben Garcia, chief of Eastern Samar Provincial Hospital; Franklin Robedizo, Sangguniang Panlalawigan secretary; Grace Ty, Maydolong Municipal SWDO; and representatives of non-government organizations Social Action Center and Terre des Hommes.
PLCPD provided technical guidance in the review of the provincial GAD ordinance, discussing relevant international and national laws that recognize and protect women and children’s rights.
The said officials came up with recommendations to revise the GAD Code. They also developed an action plan to guide future efforts to harmonize the existing GAD Code with national laws that provide the framework to empower women, ensure their health and welfare, and protect them and their children against abuse and discrimination.
Board members Alvarez and Baldono assured their audience that they would personally shepherd the passage of the proposed amendments in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP). They led the formation of the technical writing group (TWG) that will work on improving the Eastern Samar provincial GAD Code.
The TWG will be composed of the two SP members and another woman board member, Maricar Sison-Gotesan, the SP Secretary, the Provincial Planning and Development Officer, the PSWDO, the Schools Division Superintendent, the PHO, and a representative from Terre Des Hommes. This group will be in charge of finalizing the revised GAD Code and ensuring that the specific issues that were raised in the workshop will be duly considered in the amended ordinance. They are expected to finish the proposed revisions by September for filing in the SP.
PLCPD conducted the policy review writeshop with Eastern Samar officials as part of its ongoing project with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Through this partnership, PLCPD is able to provide technical support in the updating of Eastern Samar provincial ordinances, incorporating rights-based provisions and aligning it with Republic Act 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law.
July 6, 2015
The Local Legislators’ League on Population, Health, Environment and Development (3LPHED) gathered local government officials from all over the country in the 1st National Population, Health and Environment (PHE) Summit in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, on June 24-25, 2015.
Themed “Mainstreaming PHE in Sustainable Local Economic Development towards Inclusive Growth,” the conference aimed to promote more efficient strategies in PHE programming to local government units. The local legislators’ group sees the summit as its contribution to the to the country’s development agenda of accelerating and sustaining inclusive growth using integrated PHE programs and strategies that can be implemented by local government units in responding to the climate change challenges.
Experts and advocates were invited to speak on the following topics: Integrating PHE in Poverty Reduction Approaches; Addressing PHE issues through Local Economic Development; and, PHE in Climate Change Adaptation and DRR. Local executives and Sanggunian members discussed issues surrounding these topics
The conference was also graced by Palawan Governor Jose Chavez Alvarez, who gave the Welcome Address, and Department of Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla, Department of the Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Austere M. Panadero, who both keynoted the Opening Program.
A total of 139 participants from at least 19 provinces, 3 cities, and 15 municipalities attended the event. Participants included: the vice governors of Aklan, Aurora, Leyte, Masbate, and Surigao Del Sur; two mayors; six vice mayors; 23 provincial board members; 16 city councilors; 58 municipal councilors; four barangay chairs; and 21 legislative staff.
Organized by PLCPD in 2005, 3LPHED is an independent issue-based and people-centered organization of local legislators that seeks to raise population, health, environment, education and other basic social issues as priorities of local governments. It is currently headed by Masbate Governor Vicente Homer Revil, who was represented in the summit by Vice Gov. Jo Christine Revil. The PHE summit was co-sponsored by Foundation for a Sustainable Society (FSSI) and PATH Foundation.
Uphold Yolanda survivors’ right to adequate housing
TACLOBAN City, June 18, 2015—On November 8, 2013, Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan), said to be the strongest typhoon to hit land in history, slammed into Eastern Visayas and went on to pound the rest of central Philippines. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) estimates that 14.16 million or 15% of the total Philippine population has been affected; 3.62 million people displaced; 1.1 million houses damaged. The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) reported at least 5,600 dead, 26,231 injured, and 1,761 missing.
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) attributed the extent of the damage to houses in Yolanda-affected areas to the low quality of materials used in their construction and to their location in hazard-prone areas.
To address this problem, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) immediately ordered the prohibition of building structures within 40 meters from coastlines of bodies of water. A Joint Memorandum Circular (JMC) of the DENR, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) later defined “hazard zones” based on hydro-meteorological maps that indicate the level of susceptibility of areas to natural hazards. The JMC mandated local government units (LGUs) to use these maps in crafting or updating their Comprehensive Land Use Plans (CLUPs) and Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (DRRM) Plans, and in implementing resettlement programs.
Accordingly, to speed up the implementation of resettlement programs, President Aquino issued Administrative Order No. 44 streamlining the process of issuance of permits, certifications, clearances, and licenses for housing projects in Yolanda-affected areas.
The government also earmarked 76.6 billion to housing and resettlement—the biggest part of the Comprehensive Rehabilitation and Recovery Plan for Yolanda-hit provinces. So far, only 17.3% of the amount has been downloaded. As of January 2015, only 46,129 housing units (out of the 155,128 units target by June 2016) have been bid-out.
As a result, thousands of families still live in “unsafe zones”. A recent report from National Secretariat for Social Action/Caritas Philippines also revealed that 3,000 families living in hazard zones are facing the threat of forced eviction from the City Government of Tacloban.
Indeed, there has been delay in the implementation of government resettlement programs, compromising people’s rights to resettlement and adequate housing. The weak enforcement of government policies on “unsafe zones/no-dwelling zones” and land acquisition for resettlement poses serious problems in building resilient and sustainable communities.
Almost two years after Yolanda, the government and its partners have yet to ensure that families living in unsafe zones will be relocated to permanent safe sites with security of land tenure and access to livelihood opportunities and basic infrastructure and social services.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) calls on the government to uphold people’s right to adequate housing as enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and other international conventions such as the Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right to adequate housing, according to the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights, comprises: security of land tenure, affordability and resilience of houses, availability of services and infrastructure, accessibility and location in safe areas, and cultural adequacy. Moreover, adequate housing relates to security and access to other basic services including health care, education, employment and others.
To fulfill this, the government should take the necessary measures to speed up the resettlement efforts and to institutionalize policies that will protect the right to adequate housing of Yolanda survivors and victims of other disasters in the future.
June 11, 2015
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), in partnership with the House Committees on Women and Gender Equality, and Population and Family Relations, with support from UNFPA Philippines, organized on June 3 a roundtable discussion on the importance of recognizing and protecting sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) in the envisioned Bangsamoro Autonomous Region.
Dr. Sherjan Kalim of the Bangsamoro Development Authority lamented the fact that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao rates poorly in reproductive health indicators. He cited the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) that showed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has among the highest unmet need for family planning and the lowest contraceptive prevalence rate in the Philippines. The NDHS also reported that women in the region have little access to skilled birth attendance and antenatal and postnatal care.
Dr. Kalim noted, however, that the maternal mortality ratio in ARMM has gone down to 66 per 100,000 in 2013 from 245 in 2008. But he said that this decline might have been because pregnant women usually go to hospitals in Cotabato City, which is not part of ARMM, to give birth.
The decades-long conflict in the region has exacerbated these problems, according to Klaus Beck, UNFPA Philippines country representative.
“[War] disempowers [women] physically, psychologically, economically, socially,” he said. He added that armed conflict exposes women to sexual violence and abuse.
Right to access information and services
Beck emphasized the need to improve access to SRHR information and services. “Improved access to SRHR information and services means more women survive childbirth and less at risk of complications of childbirth,” he said.
The right to access to information and services on sexual and reproductive health is based on international conventions that recognize the right of women and couples to “safe and satisfying sex” and the freedom to decide freely and responsibly on matters of their reproductive health, particularly the number and spacing of their children, according to Dr. Junice Melgar, executive director of Likhaan Center for Women’s Health.
SRHR and the proposed BBL
Anak Mindanao party-list Rep. Sitti Djalia Turabin-Hataman also underscored the importance of promoting and protecting the rights of women in the Bangsamoro.
She and Bulacan Rep. Linabelle Ruth Villarica, chair of the Committee on Women and Gender Equality, shared about their efforts to strengthen provisions on women’s rights and welfare in the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (now called the Basic Law of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in the House of Representatives).
Meanwhile, Rom Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, said in a statement that “it will greatly benefit Bangsamoro people if the bill will include the recognition of the basic human right to reproductive health…(to) give us assurance that the Bangsamoro regional government will stay committed to respect, protect and fulfill the right to reproductive health.”
Beck echoed this sentiment, stressing that safeguarding women’s rights will help spur development in the region.
“We hope to see a Bangsamoro where no woman dies giving birth and where every young person’s potential is fulfilled,” he said.
Include children in DRR
June 9, 2015
Children are among the most vulnerable sectors of society to the adverse effects of climate change and natural disasters. Disasters compromise the delivery of basic social services to children, undermining their rights. UNICEF estimates that Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) has affected 5.9 million children. The UN agency also reported that Typhoon Pablo (Bopha) in 2012 affected 2.3 million children.
However, despite being at great risk in disaster situations, little space is provided for children to be able to meaningfully participate in the crafting of policies and programs on disaster risk reduction and management. As a result, existing climate change and disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) policies and programs are not responsive to the specific needs and demands of children, exacerbating their vulnerability.
The UN Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC) mandates State Parties to take into utmost consideration the best interests of children in their programs and policies. CRC also recognizes the evolving capacities of children, acknowledging that children develop enhanced competencies that enable them to make decisions on their own. The UNCRC likewise guarantees children’s right to freely express their views and opinion on matters that affect them.
The Philippines as a State Party to the CRC must then provide opportunities for children to participate in the policy-making process to ensure that government climate-related policies and programs protect and fulfill children’s rights and needs. Children should be given an active role in the formulation of their community disaster preparedness plans and in information and awareness drives in their communities.
Research shows that children hold great potential in making tangible contributions to climate change responses and DRMM policies. A study by the Institute of Development Studies and Children in a Changing Climate Coalition in 2009 showed that children provide holistic and long-term perspective in analyzing climate change risks and can communicate their analysis to peers and parents. Their optimistic attitude translates into action and can influence adults in mobilizing resources to address climate change.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hence calls for the institutionalization of children’s participation in different stages of disaster risk reduction through national and local DRRM councils and other channels. PLCPD hopes that this will be considered in the ongoing review of R.A. 10121 or the Philippine Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Act of 2010.
Ensure RH in the Bangsamoro
June 3, 2015
Reproductive health is an essential component of the universal right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health as enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Further clarified and codified in the International Conference on Population and Development, the right to reproductive health guarantees access to reproductive health care and information and the autonomy in sexual and reproductive decision-making.
The Philippines’ commitment to these international agreements has been translated to policies that respect, protect and fulfill women’s reproductive health and rights such as the Magna Carta of Women (RA 9710) and the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law or RPRH Law (RA 10354).
The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has also enacted a regional law, the Reproductive Health Care Act of 2012 for the Muslim Mindanao, which recognizes the universal human right to reproductive health. The law guarantees women and couples’ access to information and services on maternal health and family planning—strategies that will complement the implementation of RPRH Law to reduce maternal deaths and enable women and couples to decide freely and responsibly on matters pertaining to their reproductive goals.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) hopes that the gains from this improvement in the policy environment will be sustained in the envisioned Bangsamoro region that will replace the ARMM as it promises to improve governance and delivery of basic social services. The proposed basic law that will create a new Bangsamoro region is now being discussed in the plenary of the House of Representatives.
While the bill already contains provisions recognizing women’s right to health (Sec. 10, Art. VIII) and mandating the Bangsamoro regional government to deliver responsive health programs (Sec. 8, Art. VIII), it will greatly benefit Bangsamoro people if the bill will include the recognition of the basic human right to reproductive health.
We fervently hope that members of Congress will consider this proposal. We believe that including this in the bill will give us assurance that the Bangsamoro regional government will stay committed to respect, protect and fulfill the right to reproductive health.
May 27, 2015
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) called on lawmakers to strengthen the provision on children’s rights in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) as the bill goes to plenary in the House of Representatives next week.
The House Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, voting 50-17, has passed the bill last week after marathon hearings with several substantial amendments approved. However, the bill may still be strengthened by adding an explicit provision prohibiting the recruitment of children by armed groups and ensuring children’s meaningful participation in governance in the region.
“As signatory of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, we have to ensure that children are protected from exploitation by armed groups and are given the opportunity to participate in making decisions that will affect them,” Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director said.
“Children are the ultimate victims of war in Mindanao. Armed conflict has deeply impacted on many aspects of their development. There were even cases where they were used to carry out violence,” Dongeto added.
According to the UN, 54 children used by both state and non-state armed groups in the Philippines in 2011 and 26 in 2012. During the Zamboanga siege in 2013, 32 children were used as human shields and 7 as combatants or porters.
Moreover, the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) reported that more than 123,000 people have fled their homes due to the military offensive launched recently by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF). The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) approximates that 30,000 to 50,000 children have been displaced annually in the past few years.
The socio-psychological effects of violence such as constant fear, hopelessness, doubt and suspicion have adversely changed the behavior and disposition of children. Moreover, poverty incidence in the region in first half of 2014 stood at 54%, the second highest in the country.
Government statistics also show that children in the ARMM lag behind their peers elsewhere in the country in health and education. The region had the highest stunting prevalence among children aged 0-5 years at 39% in 2013, according to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), and the lowest elementary education cohort survival rate in 2013 at 38.65, according to the Mindanao Development Authority.
“Children are among the most vulnerable sectors of our society. But they hold in their hands the future. We owe it to them to ensure that the BBL will enable them to reach their fullest potential, on the road to achieve enduring peace in Mindanao,” Dongeto said.
May 22, 2015
PLCPD, in partnership with Oxfam Philippines, launched on May 13 a book of reflections and anecdotes from leading reproductive health (RH) advocates.
Titled Kagampan, which means the stage of pregnancy approaching childbirth, the book features reflections and anecdotes as told by 12 individuals who played a leading role in the campaign to pass the RH Law.
They are: RH Law authors former Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Sen. Pia S. Cayetano, and now Secretary of Health Janette P. Loreto Garin; pioneering advocates in Congress former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani and first author of RH bill Rep. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, who also pioneered local legislation on RH; Sultan Kudarat Vice Governor Ernesto F. Matias; former Health Secretary Dr. Esperanza Cabral, convener of the Purple Ribbon for RH; and champions from the civil society including Dr. Junice Demeterio-Melgar of Likhaan Center for Women’s health, Ms. Elizabeth Angsioco of the Democratic Socialist Women of the Philippines, Bishop Rodrigo Tano of the Interfaith Partnership for the Promotion of Responsible Parenthood, Ms. Lina Bacalando of Pinagsamang Lakas ng Kababaihan at Kabataan, and Mr. Romeo C. Dongeto of PLCPD.
Testament to victory
Dongeto said that the book is a reminder of the long and difficult journey that led to the enactment of the RPRH Law – a tribute and testament to men and women who worked tirelessly in the campaign. “[This book] is our story,” he told the RH advocates who attended the book launch.
According to Representative Lagman, Kagampan “helps us remember that we have accomplished an outstanding feat and reminds us that we can do it again.” He believes that the book captures the lessons in the RH advocacy, lessons that could inspire future campaigns.
Justin Morgan, Oxfam Philippines country director, said that the stories in the book “remind us for who are we doing this…for the people.”
“The RH Law is pregnant with potential to change millions of lives… pregnant with opportunities and prospect for sustainable development,” Rep. Lagman added, alluding to the title of the book.
Lessons from the RH campaign
The RH Bill was enacted in December 2012, 12 years after the first version of the bill was filed in Congress. The Supreme Court ruled on its constitutionality in April 2014.
Congresswoman Angara-Castillo, who authored the first RH bill in 2001, attributed the success of the RH campaign to the mobilization of multisectoral support and participation.
However, in the beginning, even advocates disagreed on the framing of the issue, Dr. Melgar said. But they realized that to succeed, they had to reach for a common ground, which ultimately became key to the civil society campaign’s success.
May 12, 2015
Advocates encouraged voluntary HIV counseling and testing, especially among key populations at risk of contracting HIV, during the free mass HIV testing in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, as part of the National HIV Testing Week and International AIDS Candlelight Memorial this week.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD) led the call amid the dramatic rise in the number of new HIV cases in the Philippines.
Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director, expressed grave concern on the “fast and furious” increase in HIV cases in the Philippines.
A total of 667 new HIV cases have been reported in March 2015 alone, a 34% increase compared to the figure of the same period last year, according to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines. 24,376 HIV cases have been documented since 1984. The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs. Majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men.
Prevention better than cure
Dongeto said that prevention is still the best way to stop the increase in HIV cases in the country.
“We need to intensify information dissemination campaigns to educate the public on how to avoid being infected. We also have to ensure that HIV testing and related services are made available and accessible,” he said.
More funds needed
A more aggressive HIV response would need more funding from government, Dongeto said.
According to the AIDS Medium-Term Investment Plan 2011-2016, the Philippines needs 4.8 to 6.6 billion pesos yearly to implement a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support. The budget allocated for the purpose in 2015, however, was only 383 million pesos.
PLCPD has been advocating for the amendment of Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act 1998 to provide funding for comprehensive and sustainable services for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support.
The House of Representatives has approved on third reading in December 2014 House Bill 5178 that seeks the amendment. The bill is now undergoing deliberation by a technical working group headed by Senator Pia Cayetano.
In solidarity with the May 11-15 National HIV Testing Week in the Philippines being led by the Department of Health (DOH), PLCPD—with support from UNAIDS Philippines and in partnership with DOH, Philippine National AIDS Council, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, Quezon City Health Department, Pasay City Health Office, the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano, and the House of Representatives—is organizing free voluntary HIV counseling and testing in the Senate on May 11 and in the House of Representative on May 12.
It’s time to implement the RPRH Law
April 8, 2015
One year ago today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law during its summer session in Baguio City by declaring the law “not unconstitutional” after hearing several petitions filed against it for more than one year.
Hailed as a landmark and historic law, RH Law took almost 14 years in the legislative mill before it was approved by the 15th Congress and signed by the President in December 2012. In late 2014, the Department of Health (DOH) created the National Implementation Team (NIT) for the RPRH Law. Headed by former DOH Secretary Esperanza Cabral, the NIT has never stopped working since.
Advocates fought tirelessly and passionately for the RPRH Law. It is now time for everyone to work together for its full and meaningful implementation.
Family Health Survey (FHS) 2011 reported that the country’s maternal mortality ratio is 221 deaths per 100,000 live births—a far cry from our national target of reducing it to 62 per 100,000 live births by 2015.
Among the most serious problems currently faced by the youth is teenage pregnancy. According to the 2013 National Health and Demographic Survey (NDHS), 11 percent of Filipino women aged 15 to 19 were already mothers while 2.6 percent were pregnant with their first child in 2011. Moreover, according to the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study (YAFS 4), 32 percent of Filipino youth are sexually active; 78 percent of young people who have had premarital sex did not use any protection during their first time.
HIV cases in the country increase at a “fast and furious” rate, with 536 new cases diagnosed January 2015 (or 18 new cases per day) according to the HIV/AIDS and ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP) January 2015 Report.
These are only few of the serious RH-related problems confronting the country. The full and meaningful implementation of the RPRH Law will contribute to addressing these.
Maternal and child health will be improved by reaching women and couples with unmet need for family planning and ensuring their access to family planning, and making sure that all births are attended by skilled birth attendants and are delivered in appropriate facilities that are able to provide at least basic emergency obstetric care.
Teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections may be prevented through serious information and education and public awareness programs, including age-appropriate sexuality and RH education in schools.
Funding for the measures mentioned above is guaranteed through the annual General Appropriations Act as provided by the law.
The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) commends the Department of Health, the NIT, and advocates from the civil society for their commitment to do right by the law. The organization likewise calls on local government officials and other stakeholders to do their share in the implementation of the law. For its part, PLCPD will continue its support for reproductive health through policy advocacy.
PLCPD is a voluntary organization of lawmakers from the House of Representatives and the Senate who work together and with other stakeholders in advocating policies conducive to advancing population and human development in the country. PLCPD and its members played an instrumental role in the campaign for the RPRH Law, from the filing of the first RH bill in 2001 to its enactment in 2012.
BAGUIO City, March 20—A legislators’ group registered it support for the urgent passage of the bill seeking to amend Republic Act 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998
The bill was approved on 3rd reading in the House of Representatives last December and is now undergoing deliberation by a technical working group headed by Sen. Pia Cayetano.
The bill aims to provide a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support in order to address the “fast and furious” rise of HIV cases in the country and provide for the needs of growing number of Filipinos living with HIV.
“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” Romeo Dongeto, Philippine Legislators’ Committee in Population and Development (PLCPD) executive director said in a media briefing, March 20, in Baguio City.
PLCPD, an organization of lawmakers that aim to uplift lives of Filipinos through human development legislation, has been advocating for the amendment of RA 8504. The shift in the country’s epidemic profile requires a stronger response, which RA 8504—once hailed as model legislation after its passage in 1998—no longer effectively addresses.
According to the National Epidemiology Center, there were 6,011 new HIV cases that were reported in 2014. 509 of these were recorded in December or 42% higher compared to the figure of the same period last year.
A total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984, increasing dramatically in recent years. The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs. Majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men (MSM).
MSMs, persons who inject drugs, female sex workers, and young people engaging in risky sexual behavior are among key populations at higher risk to contract HIV.
Meanwhile, UNAIDS country director Bai Bagasao stressed the need to invest in HIV response. “We have to ensure that more funds will be appropriated for comprehensive services on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public—especially key affected populations—about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” she said.
Based on the AIDS Medium-Term Investment Plan 2011-2016, the country needs 3 billion pesos in 2015 for comprehensive prevention, treatment, care and support for about 80% of key affected populations alone. However, the entire government’s budget for HIV response for the year—around 383 million—is a far cry from the needed amount.
QUEZON City, March 19—The “fast and furious” rise of HIV cases in the country calls for the urgent enactment of a law that will provide a comprehensive program for HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support—a lawmaker said.
Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat called on senators to amend RA 8504 of the Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998, to effectively address the record-high number of new HIV infections in the Philippines.
Baguilat co-authored HB 5178 that the House approved on third reading in December 2014. The Senate has yet to pass its own version.
“We need a more aggressive response to this growing concern. We want zero new infections. A stronger law will enable us to achieve this goal,” he shared during a press conference on HIV organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), March 19.
“We have to ensure that more funds will be appropriated for comprehensive services on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. We also need to intensify our campaign to educate the public—especially key affected populations—about HIV and provide the necessary medical support for people living with HIV,” he added.
According to the National Epidemiology Center, there were 6,011 new HIV cases that were reported in 2014. 509 of these were recorded in December or 42% higher compared to the figure of the same period last year.
A total of 22,527 HIV cases have been documented since 1984, increasing dramatically in recent years. The most common mode of viral transmission was sexual contact followed by needle sharing when injecting drugs. Majority of those who acquired the virus through sexual contact were men having sex with men (MSM).
Bai Bagasao, UNAIDS country director, cited the lack of adequate knowledge on how the virus is acquired, and the low use of protection such as condoms as factors behind the rapid increase of HIV cases.
“It is important that we educate people on how HIV is transmitted and how it can be avoided. We must bust the many myths and misinformation on HIV. It is also important that we ensure availability and access to information about HIV and HIV-related products and services. Through these, we can help lower the chance of people getting infected and save lives,” she said.
Civil society organizations including PLCPD have also joined the calls to amend RA 8504, and have been actively involved in raising public awareness on HIV in the Philippines.
Uphold human rights in business
March 11, 2015
Just recently, on Jan. 19, 2015, nine construction workers, including a child laborer, were killed when a wall in the warehouse that they were building collapsed in Guiguinto, Bulacan. There have been many other cases where workers died because of allegedly poor and unsafe workplace conditions. This is on top of low wages, lack of health and social security benefits, and insecurity of tenure that exacerbate the economic inequality in the country.
Meanwhile, communities and families have been displaced, workers denied of their rights, the environment threatened, and in some cases, the right to ancestral domain of indigenous peoples have been violated in the course of regular business operations of local and multinational companies in the country.
These things happen despite the existence of national policies, international human rights laws, and standards including the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights that mandate states and business entities to respect and protect human rights and provide remedies when these rights are violated.
It is important, then, to review existing laws and their implementation in order to know whether they are enough or lacking in terms of protecting the human rights of everyone affected by business practices—whether they are participants in the operations or are affected because of their presence in or proximity to the location of businesses. It is also important to urge businesses to integrate human rights standards into their daily operations and not merely relegate them to ‘special projects’ within the ambit of corporate social responsibility.
Our country’s commitment to the Millennium Development Goals and the post-2015 development agenda reinforces the need to improve our efforts to uplift the lives of all Filipinos and narrow the gap between the rich and poor by making sure that the pursuit of economic development does not compromise the rights of people.
This call also becomes more imperative as the country prepares for ASEAN economic integration, as economic liberalization makes labor markets vulnerable to exploitation and eases restrictions on the movement of goods and people.
PLCPD firmly believes that development should never be at the expense of human rights. The government and the business sector, together with civil society, the media, and all stakeholders, should work closely together in ensuring that human rights of all are consistently respected, protected, and fulfilled.
February 26, 2015
With barely ten months left in 2015, time is running out for the Philippines to meaningfully achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
Speaking in a press conference organized by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) on February 24, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) representative Mr. Michael Provido, Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Enrique Tayag, AAMBIS-Owa Party List representative Sharon Garin, and PLCPD executive director Mr. Romeo Dongeto discussed the country’s progress in achieving the MDGs and preparations for the post-2015 global development agenda.
Set in 2000, the MDGs are global development goals that 189 countries and 23 international organizations have agreed to achieve by 2015, namely: eliminate poverty and hunger; ensure universal primary education; improve child health; boost maternal health; halt the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; safeguard environmental sustainability; and build a global partnership for development.
According to reports from NEDA, there is high probability that the Philippines will meet its targets in ending food poverty, ensuring school participation of children, promoting women empowerment, decreasing infant and under-five mortality rate, lowering malaria morbidity, minimizing tuberculosis incidence, and ensuring access to safe water and sanitary toilet facilities.
On the other hand, the country has medium probability in solving income poverty and lowering the number of underweight children.
The areas where we lag behind are increasing cohort survival in school, closing the gender gap in education and politics, reducing maternal mortality, providing access to reproductive health services, and halting and reversing the spread of HIV.
Representative Sharon Garin lamented that while Congress has passed laws in the last 14 years that aim to contribute in achieving the country’s MDG targets, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.
“Congress remains committed in crafting laws that will help us meet our national targets. The challenge, however, to meet our MDG targets is not the sole burden of the government. It is upon each and every one of us to contribute in our own little ways to this huge endeavor. Now more than ever, we, the key stakeholders in society—the government, the business sector, civil society, mass media—should join hands to drum up our efforts to achieve our MDGs,” she said.
“We have to make sure that our efforts address the different needs of different sectors in our society and more effort should be invested for those who need the extra hand. Inclusive growth means no sector will be left behind as our country moves to achieve our development targets,” she added.
Meanwhile, Mr. Romeo Dongeto, PLCPD executive director zoomed in on the MDG targets that the Philippines is obviously missing, including reducing maternal deaths (MDG5 target) and halting the spread of HIV (MDG6 target). According to the 2011 Family Health Survey, maternal mortality ratio in the Philippines is 221 deaths per 100,000, which increased from 162 in 2008 and is a far cry from the MDG5 target of only 52 deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015. He also cited the “fast and furious” rate of increase of new cases of HIV in the country. The latest DOH HIV and AIDS Registry confirms 6,011 new HIV cases in the country in 2014. 5,758 or 96% of the 6,011 new cases were male, and the age group 20-29 year old had 58% of the cases.
“You know something is not working for our women, our mothers, and our young people when we have figures like these—increasing maternal deaths and increasing new HIV cases—at a time when everything else [is reported to be] improving everywhere else,” he laments.
Dongeto also echoed the sentiment of Congresswoman Garin. “We have to make sure that the progress we’ve been making is inclusive and does not exclude any sector in society. Be it in the area of health or gender equality, we should examine our progress and gaps across all regions, all age groups, all economic classes.”
PLCPD is an organization of lawmakers advocating legislation conducive to human development in the country. The organization has supported policy proposals supportive of the MDGs, including the historic Reproductive Health Law enacted in December 2012.
The press conference titled “From the Millennium Development Goals to the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Marami pang Dapat Gawin,” held on February 24 at Alex III in Tomas Morato, Quezon City was the first in a series of media activities being organized by PLCPD. The series is called “Closing gaps, expanding opportunities: a kapihan series on various issues of our time,” and aims to discuss various human development issues including the MDGs, women’s health and rights, HIV and AIDS, and children’s rights.
February 18, 2015
Civil society organizations working for the protection of children’s rights reiterated their call to Congress to institutionalize child participation in disaster risk reduction (DRR) in a learning session organized by PLCPD last February 13.
Shiela M. Carreon of Save the Children Philippines discussed the right of children to freely express their views and opinion on matters that affect them as provided by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (CRC). She also stressed the importance of providing children or those below 18 years of age the opportunity to participate in policymaking process to ensure that their interests are duly considered by authorities.
These rights are inalienable even when disasters strike, said Leon Fajardo of UNICEF Philippines. He emphasized how disasters exacerbate the natural vulnerabilities of children and undermine the fulfillment of their rights.
Role of children in DRR
Fajardo pointed out that children play a critical role in disaster risk reduction. Children provide a more holistic and long-term perspective in analyzing risks and can communicate their analysis to peers and parents. Their optimistic attitude translates into action and can convince adults to mobilize resources. On the other hand, children also have specific needs during disaster situations.
Carreon cited several countries where children actively participated in the formulation of their community disaster preparedness plans and in information and awareness drives in their communities.
Prospects for legislation
Currently, there are legislative measures that are seen as access points for the advocacy on child participation in disaster risk reduction. These are existing bills on different children and youth issues through which formal mechanisms for child participation in DRR may be introduced.
Armie Evardone, chief of staff of House Bill 5285’s principal author Rep. Susan Yap, discussed the salient points of the said bill, which provides for “a comprehensive and strategic program of action to provide the children affected by disaster, calamity, and other emergency situations support and assistance necessary for their immediate recovery and protection against all forms of neglect, abuse, exploitation and other acts prejudicial to their interest and well-being.” The bill has already been approved by the House of Representatives on Final Reading and is under technical working group discussions at the Senate.
Cathy Alcantara, legislative staff of Rep. Barry Gutierrez, on one hand, talked about the different versions of SK reform and empowerment bills in the House and Senate. Senate Bill 2401 differs mainly from the House version on the age requirement for SK officials and the extent of the ban on political dynasties. In SB 2401, SK officials must be 18-24 years old, while the House version sets the age requirement at 18-21 years. Both bills however provide for more fiscal autonomy to SK.
Commenting on the said bills, representatives from civil society organizations urged the inclusion of an express provision in the bills that will provide for child participation in local disaster risk reduction and management councils to ensure that their concerns are integrated in DRR policies and programs. They also raised their concern that the SK bills deny children the opportunity to directly participate in governance, given the change in the age requirement for SK officials. They also proposed that the SK bills should contain a provision that DRR should be among the priorities of the SK.
Evardone and Alcantara assured the CSOs that their concerns and recommendations will be duly considered by the authors of the bills.
The CSOs present were ZOTO, World Vision, Plan International, VIDES, NGO Coalition on the UNCRC, and ChildFund. Representatives Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Teddy Brawner Baguilat, and Mel Senen Sarmiento were also represented by their legislative staff.
This learning session was conducted in partnership with UNICEF Philippines.
February 5, 2015
PLCPD, in partnership with UNICEF Philippines, conducted “Documentary Photography and Photo Story Production Training-Workshop on Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices” last January 21-23 in La Trinidad, Benguet.
Undeterred by the cold and the mountainous landscape, 23 participants, representing various civil society organizations and offices of legislators, held on to their digital cameras, eyes keen to capture the best images of good practices and challenges on nutrition and child health, particularly the first 1,000 days of infant and young child feeding.
They trained under the tutelage of Mr. Jimmy Domingo, who teaches photography and photojournalism courses in Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University – Manila.
Ms. Georgina Belardo, Communication for Development Officer, Health and Nutrition Section, UNICEF, on one hand, shared about the importance of breastfeeding on the child’s health and in solving malnutrition in the country.
An earlier study by UNICEF reported that children who are breastfed cry less; have less respiratory infections, diarrhea, Vitamin A deficiency, allergies, chronic diseases, and risk of obesity; and have higher scores on IQ tests.
The photo essays generated by participants will be displayed in an exhibit at the House of Representatives and Senate in August, in time for the celebration of Nutrition and Breastfeeding Months. Prizes were also awarded to the three top solo photos and three top photo stories.
The activity was organized with the assistance of the Office of La Trinidad Mayor Edna Tabanda.
February 2, 2015
Legislators committed to support children’s rights in the proposed law that will create a Bangsamoro political entity in a learning session organized by PLCPD on January 28.
Speaking on the challenges in the formulation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, PLCPD Vice President, reiterated his commitment to work on guaranteeing the protection and welfare of children in the Bangsamoro. He stressed the importance of legislating enabling laws that reflect the country’s international commitments in upholding children’s rights rights, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“There is a need for a transitory provision in the BBL that states that national laws (on child protection) are applied in the Bangsamoro until the [Bangsamoro parliament] has enacted a law of the same spirit,” he said.
Bukidnon Rep. Malou Acosta-Alba, a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, provided updates on the deliberations of the committee. She also shared that while many issues have surfaced in the committee discussions, there are apparently issues—including children’s rights—that have not been discussed.
Atty. Benedicto Bacani of the Institute for Autonomy and Governance pointed out the general repealing clause in the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law that ensures that no law will be enacted by the regional assembly that is inconsistent with national laws. He suggested that it may help to ease doubts on the matter if a non-derogation clause will be included in the BBL. A non-derogation clause in the BBL prevents the Bangsamoro regional government from detracting national laws or international agreements that the Philippines has signed into.
UNICEF Representative to the Philippines, Ms. Lotta Sylwander, urged the legislators to carry on the advocacy. Citing statistics that show how children in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) lag behind their peers in other regions in terms of education, nutrition and vaccination, and access to safe water and electricity—making them vulnerable in times of conflict, Ms. Sylwander stressed the importance of promoting child rights in the Bangsamoro.
“The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) has opened the doors for lasting peace and sustainable development for the people. The Bangsamoro Basic Law is now the next milestone. Children must come first!” she said.
The discussion concluded with the agreement to put forward proposed amendments to the bill, namely: a provision ensuring the participation of children in governance and the prohibition of recruitment of children to armed groups.
Representatives Grex Lagman, Lawrence Fortun, and Susan Yap also attended the activity. Other participants include legislative staff of other legislators and the committee secretary of the House Committee on the Welfare of Children.
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).