Chua: Population planning, food security key to unlocking the Philippines’ growth potential.

PHL commits to prioritize health, nutrition, FP at UN meet

Filipino ambassador to head UN population body in 2022

The Philippines is keen on strengthening efforts on family planning, as well as population and development (POPDEV), as government agencies led by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) strongly commit to advance and protect gains of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) Program of Action in the midst of the pandemic.

At the 54th session of the United Nations’ Commission on Population and Development (CPD) on April 19 in New York City, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua articulated the national government’s goal of providing every Filipino with basic services that will enable them to contribute to the country’s achievement of its potential for growth, as well as those that will ultimately benefit their health and welfare, which parallel the Philippines’ POPDEV goals.

Speaking before the 47-member body of the CPD, Chua affirmed the national government’s strong commitment to the protection and advancement of the gains of the ICPD—a gathering of global stakeholders, which includes those from the Philippines as an active member-state. 

The ICPD aims to fulfill the promises in a Program of Action focused on sexual and reproductive health care services as well as rights. It strives to achieve universal access to sexual and reproductive health, which covers family planning, safe pregnancy, women’s empowerment, and gender equality.

This year’s CPD also witnessed the election of Ambassador Enrique A. Manalo, co-head of the Philippine delegation, as chair of the CPD’s 2022 session.

“Population planning and food security are key to unlocking [the Philippines’ growth potential, as well as] the health and welfare of all Filipinos,” Chua told the global gathering. “Our…goal is to give every Filipino access to quality healthcare, nutrition services, and family planning [by implementing laws on Universal Health Care, as well as those for Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health].”

            The newly appointed head of NEDA cited concrete examples to the assembly convened by the United Nations Population Fund that key reforms have enabled the government to improve agriculture productivity and food security: “We enacted the Rice Tariffication Law in 2019 to bring down rice prices for the benefit of all Filipinos especially the poor, improved the country’s food security, [while enhancing] productivity and competitiveness of rice farmers.”

            The NEDA chief however pointed out that the level of malnutrition in the country remains high. He noted that as of 2019, among children under five years old, 5.8 %, or around 600,000, are victims of acute malnourishment; 19%, or 2.1 million, are underweight; and 28.8%, or 3.2 million, are subject to stunted growth.

            “The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges we are facing in securing food, nutrition, and good health for all Filipinos. Overcoming this unprecedented crisis requires stronger collaboration,” the head of NEDA concluded, as he exhorted the CPD for collective action: “Let us continue to work hard together to ensure that our common goal of human capital development is fully realized.”

            Reinforcing Chua’s statements, Undersecretary for POPDEV Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH said the government is aggressively pursuing strategic actions to ensure reproductive health and rights of every Filipino are promoted, fulfilled and protected against persistent threats of the present health crisis. 

“Our whole-of-nation approach is laying concrete efforts to ensure availability and access of family planning, as well as other reproductive health-information and services at the community level as a critical pandemic response,” POPCOM’s executive director remarked. “This includes policies in strengthening the national family planning program and establishing mechanisms to influence internal migration toward highly urbanized areas.”

            The just-concluded CPD likewise saw the UN call for urgent action to feed the world’s burgeoning population in a healthy, equitable, and sustainable way. According to the assembly, the pandemic has added between 83 and 132 million to the 690 million people worldwide, including those from the Philippines, who are already undernourished. It raised questions on the chances of meeting global targets on food security and nutrition, as it called for a revisiting of the international food system.