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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Mr. TOMAS OSIAS
Commission on Population and Development
38th Session of the Commission on Population and Development
New York, 4 April 2005
On behalf of the members of my delegation, allow me to express our congratulations on your election. Likewise, we congratulate the Secretariat for preparing excellent documents for this session. Rest assured of the cooperation of my delegation in working towards the successful and fruitfuk completion of the our task.
This 38th Session of the Commission on Population and Development affords us a timely and fitting opportunity to reflect on our accomplishments and the challenges facing us and the international population community in the implementation of the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development. In particular, out attention will be focused on population, development, HIV/AIDS and poverty.
We believe that development must be people centered, equitably distributed, environmentally and economically sustainable. Our adherence to these principles is manifested in their integration in the Philippine development agenda that is directed towards human development, poverty reduction, environmental protection and sustainable development. The 10-Point Agenda of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo articulates on the country’s fight against poverty in the pursuit of total human development.
Anchored on this premise, the government of the Philippines recently re-affirmed its commitment to the Program of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD-POA), emphasizing that population issues should be viewed in a holistic manner and from a sustainable development perspective. It commits itself to continuously adopt general development programs which are cognizant of the interrelations between and among population factors, the biophysical environment and socio-economic and cultural forces. Accordingly, the implementation of the ICPD-POA in the Philippines is guided by the policy principles enunciated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on respect for life, responsible parenthood, birth spacing, and informed choice.
The integration of population interrelationships in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) has been consistently done form 1993 up to present. For the present planning period, a demographic target of 1.9 PGR by the year 2010 is explicitly stated in 2005-2010 MTPDP.
As we aptly devote special attention to HIV/AIDS issues in this Session, we share our country’s experience and concerns in HIV/AIDS. The HIV/AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is still in its nascent stage. To date, it has one of the lowest rates of HIV infection in Asia, an estimated .03% prevalence among the 15-49 year age group. (2002 Epidemiological Fact Sheet of UNAIDS). Based on HIV/AIDS data on selected surveillance sites, extensive transmission of HIV has not occurred yet, even among the most-at-risk groups like female sex workers, men who have sex with men and injecting drug users.
The Philippine Government and civil society have confronted the problem of HIV/AIDS early and aggressively. We established the HIV/AIDS Registry in the Department of Health in 1987. In 1992, the Philippine National AIDS Council (PNAC), which is a multi-sectoral body that advises the President on policy issues regarding HIV/AIDS was created. Subsequently, in 1993 a National HIV/AIDS Sentinel Surveillance System was established. A milestone legislation, Republci Act (R.A.) 8504 or the Philippine AIDS Prevention and control Law was enacted in 1998. This law called for a comprehensive nationwide HIV/AIDS educational and information campaign, full protection of human rights of known and suspected HIV-infected persons, eradication of condition that aggravate the spread of HIV-infected persons, eradication of condition that aggravate the spread of HIV infection and recognition of the role of affected individuals in information dissemination.
Despite the low level of HIV infection, we do not remain complacent in addressing the HIV/AIDS situation. With cast local studies indicating alarmingly high STI rates, low condom use even among most-at-risk groups, and other practices that increase the risk of exposure to and contracting HIV such as sharing of unclean needles by drug users, and same sex intercourse, the need for more aggressive efforts become more urgent. Correspondingly, government partners and local and international NGOs have constantly implemented programs for high-risk target groups, especially those at the grassroots level. Local multi-sectoral AIDS councils have been created in most key cities to define and implement appropriate strategies, programs and policies to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Moreover, as significant number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are returning home infected with HIV (33% of the reported HIV/AIDS cases to date, are OFWs). Hence, integration of HIV/AIDS and Migration in the curriculum of the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) of the Department of Foreign Affairs has been initiated. This will help in mainstreaming HIV/AIDS as an urgent issue and concern of the OFW sector.
Recent findings also show that there is an increased sexual behavior among young people 15-24 years old, including earlier sexual initiation, having multiple sexual partners and engaging in paid sex. Hence, HIV/AIDS education has been incorporated, to a limited extent, in the curriculum by the Department of Education. Likewise, for young people who may already be in the workforce, HIV/AIDS policies in the workplace have been developed by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). These policies have even far-reaching advantages as they also cover those in the workforce beyond the younger age groups.
The challenge for the Philippines is to prevent the further spread of HIV and to act ahead of the epidemic. The present situation should not lull into complacency and inaction for the situation may most likely to change without sustained interventions. From the standpoint of public health and sustainable development, the Philippine response to HIV/AIDS needs to be accelerated now because of these challenges. This pro-active stance will help the country secure its development gains by preventing an epidemic explosion that may likely go beyond its resource capacity to control, as well as potentially overburden an already strained health care and social welfare systems.
Thus, we have to ensure that confronting the HIV/AIDS problem remains in the national development agenda. We have to secure adequate resources for HIV/AIDS prevention, care and support programs. Programs and policies initiated and put in place so far should be sustained and strengthened. The ongoing consultation to reciew by a Special Committee on the Millennium Development Goals. (MDGs) in Congress of the status and impact of the implementation of the AIDS Law is also particularly important as it will help define the enactment and enforcement of relevant policies and other legislative issuances.
Allow me to also to report recent accomplishments of the Philippines in terms of strengthening the population policy, programs and partnership with various sectors.
In observance of the 10th Anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), the Commission on Population (POPCOM) headed the development and publication of the country report that outlines the Philippines’ major accomplishments, initiatives and challenges, specifically in line with population and development, reproductive health and reproductive rights, gender equality and equity, and empowerment of women, in fulfilling its ICPD commitments. Sectoral and multi-level consultations were conducted. Among the sectors consulted and who renewed their pledge of commitment to the ICPD POA are: business, non-government organizations, youth leaders, legislators and religious sector.
In 2004, POPCOM came up with the third State of the Philippine Population Report with the theme “Population, Urbanization and Local Governance”. The report looked at the experiences of eight key cities in solving urban development problems and recommended policy interventions that will contribute to good governance and improved quality of life.
We also published the PPMP One-Script, an advocacy material that discussed the interrelationships between population and other sectors such as health, education, employment, food security, housing and environment and recommended action needed for implementation of programs, projects and activities related to population.
The Guide to Population and Development Planning, which we revised last year, aims to provide a user-friendly reference to planners and program managers at the local level on how to integrate population and development interrelationships in plan and program development.
In out continuing effort to push for the enactment of a comprehensive population and development and reproductive health care laws, a grand Alliance for Population and Reproductive Health was formed. This is composed of various sectors such as labor, women, youth, non-government organizations. Their common goal is to have a clear and consistent population policy and to ensure the provision of reproductive health services to the people.
Another milestone document that has been developed and adopted is the Reproductive Health Module with Islamic perspective. It is intended to address the culturally-sensitive and other issues unique to the Muslim community and beliefs that influence the reproductive health practices of the Filipino Muslims. The module is especially designed for Muslim Religious Leaders (MRLs) to integrate reproductive health in their religious teachings and various information, education and advocacy activities.
The program also enjoys the support of media practitioners and partners especially in educating the public and other policy influentials and decision-makers about population and reproductive helath, and their implications to development and improved quality of life.
In spite of these numerous accomplishments, we are still faced with awesome challenges.
Based on the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey, there is a one-child gap between the total fertility rate (3.5) and desired fertility (2.5). Unmet need for family planning is still high at 17%:9% for limiting birth and 8% for birth spacing. The less educated, the poor and those in the rural areas have also the highest TFR and unmet need.
The Department of Health has recently launched “Ligtas Buntis (Safe Pregnancy) campaign, a door to door information campaign on family planning targeting two million couples in the urban area and rural slums. This campaign will help couples to achieve their desired family size within the context of responsible parenthood for sustainable development.
The Philippines calls for continued support of the international community for programs and interventions to integrate population concerns in all development initiatives, the urgency in addressing migration and in addressing reproductive health concerns, the issue of HIV/AIDS in particular.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
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