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Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the United Nations
Mr. Tomas M. Osias, Member of the Philippine Delegation At the 40 th Session of the Commission on Population and Development, 9-13 April 2007, New York
On behalf of the Philippine delegation, allow me to extend my congratulations to you and the members of your Bureau on your well-deserved election. We commit our cooperation in working towards the successful and meaningful completion of the tasks before us for this session. My delegation associates itself with the views expressed by Pakistan on behalf of the Group of 77 and China.
Our keen interest in this 40 th Session of the Commission on Population and Development is founded on the wide-ranging implications of changing population structures especially in the context of the recent development gains and efforts of the Philippines as a developing country. I believe that the recent economic performance of the Philippines has gained the attention of the whole world. Rallying behind the momentum it is gaining from its continuing economic gains. The Philippine government focuses on making these gains trickle down to each Filipino by taking a comprehensive look at all the development factors that may hinder faster economic growth and human development.
Given this perspective, we are pleased to report, that our government is taking an aggressive stand and action on the issue of population and development as it recognizes the real and potential effect of population factors on economic and human development. Population management concerns are now explicitly included as major component of the flagships programs, thrusts and development agenda of present government. Population is viewed both as producer and consumer of goods and services and, therefore, we put people at the center of development.
The Philippines is experiencing a slow change in its population age-structure. By global standards, the country has still a young population with 37 percent of its population
younger than 15 years old. This structure is a result of a trend that features gradual and slow decline in the young age group (less than 15 years age-group) and the elderly population (60 years and above).
The still youthful age-distribution of the Philippines is likewise a product of a slow decline in fertility (from 3.7 in 1998 and 3.5 in 2003); a significant increase in life expectancy; and low mortality brought by the improvements in health care in the country.
Looking at the potential impact of these demographic events on the age-structure of the country, the question is can we see the prospect of the so-called “demographic dividend.” The good news, is right now by the latest official estimate, the proportion of the young population under 15 is declining trend, the segment of elderly population is gradually increasing leading to a huge supply of labor force as brought about by the continuous decline in fertility.
As the country is inclined to get the best from the changes occurring in its age-structure, the government is moving to create the pre-conditions of such demographic dividend or bonus. Our primary concern is focused in intergenerational welfare which include a) making the young active contributor to development and preparing them to become productive and responsible adults; b) effectively utilizing its vast human resources; and c) caring for the slow but surely growing elderly segment of the population.
Like other countries, young Filipinos are faced with various challenges during their transition stage. Information age has contributed to their intellectual growth and independence but it has its negative influences as well. Filipino youth are still exposed to developmental threats and unfavorable effects of their behaviors particularly on their sexual and reproductive health. Incidences of pregnancy and childbirth among the young are occurring but although still low compared to other countries. Even so, this is by no means a reason for complacency.
Aware of these challenges, the government in partnership with non-government organizations and other concerned institutions is aggressively pushing initiatives to assist the young towards holistic salubrious development. Adolescent Health and Youth Development is still a major strategy under the population management program with efforts of promoting responsible sexuality and reproductive health through provision of appropriate, culturally-sensitive, gender-responsive, values-laden and rights-based information and services.
The country also recognizes the crucial role of youth in nation-building not only in the future but also as an active agent and contributor in the development. The government is also pushing efforts to create an enabling environment for youth empowerment and participation in development planning, policy-making, advocacy, and governance. The “Sanggunian Kabataan” or Youth Council and Local Youth Development Planning is an example of an opportunity for the youth to participate in governance and responsible management of their own development within the context of nation-building.
The Philippines has just recently launched its pro-poor thrust - the “8 for 2008: Investing in People” initiative. This thrust includes the following major components: a) job creation, b) cost of living, c) pro-poor education, d) strong peso, e) more investments, f) pro-poor health, housing and hunger-mitigation, g) green Philippines, and h) strong anti-terror policies.
This thrust is not only aimed at providing economic opportunities for the labor force through employment and investments but also for improving the social aspect of Filipinos’ lives including health, nutrition, education, housing and security. Population concern is being addressed as a major component and strategy under the health priority.
The current population policy in the country is anchored on four pillars namely
1) Responsible Parenthood, 2) Respect for Life, 3) Birth Spacing, and 4) Informed Choice. Consistent with these principles and in the context of local autonomy, the local government units are given with the primary responsibility of providing couples and individuals with information and services to enable them to exercise Responsible Parenthood.
Likewise, in line with the recent Presidential directives of promoting a) responsible parenthood; b) birth spacing of three to five years; c) breastfeeding; and d) natural family planning, the Responsible Parenting Program is being rolled out down to the local level. This is being operationalized through the organization of Responsible Parenting Movements (RPM) and promotion of scientific natural family planning methods as a means of assisting couples to achieve their fertility goals by improving range of choices for family planning methods and capacitating individuals especially among the poor who could not afford costly family planning methods.
Morever, the RPM is also set within the context of the pro-poor initiatives of the government particularly under its flagship “Hunger Mitigation Program” project. Recognizing that too large family size aggravates poverty, the population management program has been included as one of the major strategies of this initiative.
The country’s human resource utilization effort is also significantly concerned with the growing Filipino migration. We believe that this phenomenon is one of the unintended results of changing population age structure in the country. As economic opportunities abroad attract our labor force, eight million Filipinos are now working abroad.
Overseas Filipinos have been called as the Philippine “modern day heroes” not only because of their contribution to the country’s economy but also because of their sacrifices in working away from home.
The State of the Philippine Population Report 2007 issued by the Commission on Population has revealed anew the network of issues surrounding this phenomenon. It has primarily called for the consolidation and strengthening of systems that provide information for improving the policy as well as program environment for this specific demographic event. It has also called for policies and programs that could help mitigate the economic and social costs of migration while maximizing its positive benefits.
While our development concern is focused on addressing the issues of the country’s young population, we see the dawning of population ageing in the country. Given the present trends in the on-going structuring of the age composition of the country, the population of 60 years and over will increase at a rate faster than the total population. Therefore, population ageing has to be addressed early on as social, economic, cultural, and environmental transformations are also occurring.
Having this in mind, the government is continuously creating and improving policies addressing the older population not only within the context of macro development policies (e.g. promoting savings and investments) but also in aid of ultimately improving individual welfare and intergenerational equity. Foremost of these policies is the explicit recognition in the Philippine Constitution of the family and State’s “duty to take care of elderly members” through “just programs of social security.” Various legislations have been enacted (i.e. RA No. 7432 in 1992, RA No. 7876 in 1995, and RA 9275 in 2003) not only to provide privileges and promote welfare to older population but also to motivate and encourage them to contribute to nation building. The government has also adopted the Philippine Plan of Action for Older Persons in 1999 to address major areas of concern of the older population in the country.
Next month, Filipinos will elect their national and local leaders. We hope that we could create a more favorable political environment for population and development policies that would particularly address the issues and concerns I earlier expressed. And, more importantly, we could realize and capitalize on the demographic window of opportunity that is before us.
We also join the rest of the world in a renewed call to address the concerns arising from the changing global age-structure. In doing our share, we shall remain to be steadfast in our commitment to the ICPD. We will continue to aggressively promote intergenerational equity and welfare particularly for the young, working-age, and elderly population towards the development of our nation and the global world as a whole.
Lastly, we call on the international community to provide support to developing countries that are in the threshold of demographic transitions to make them reap the positive effects of their changing demographic structures.
Thank you Mr. Chairman.
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