Hon. Alexandria “Queenie” P. Gonzales
District representative, Mandaluyong
POPCOM AT 49: FOR A QUALITY LIFE – AFTER BIRTH
(Inspirational Message delivered during the 49th Anniversary of the Population Commission)
Sec. Ernesto Pernia of the National Economic and Development Authority, and Chairman of the POPCOM Board of Commissioners; Dr. Juan Antonio Perez III, Executive Director of POPCOM; representatives of the different government agencies – DOLE, DOH, and DepEd; and to you my dear friends and colleagues in the Population Commission:
The past 49 years in the life of the POPCOM is replete with all sorts of stories: of challenges, of overcoming a myriad of obstacles, of being misunderstood, and of being recognized as a key player in the country’s march toward the dream of development. Yes, for the past forty-nine years you – the officers and staff of POPCOM – have plodded on with one of the most difficult tasks any government or non-government agency has ever undertaken: give shape, meaning, and direction to the country’s comprehensive population management program.
Given the strong cultural and religious undertones of the population issue, you and I know only too well whereof I speak. The long-drawn battle for the passage of the Reproductive Health Law in 2012 was probably one of the most difficult measures Congress had to pass then. Facing strong opposition from certain streams in the religious sector, the RH Law’s passage is one that can be considered the pinnacle of POPCOM’s effort in institutionalizing its mandate. I am sure that for you, and for other reproductive health advocates, that law is THE milestone in your five decades of being in the forefront of the country’s population management program.
You and I know for a fact that one of the key issues in addressing the problem of poverty and development in our country is population. An uncontrolled population exacts a toll on the resources of government. Let’s just take the area of education as a concrete example. If we just assume that 2.4 million children are born each year, the public education system needs to build 54,000 classrooms every year to accommodate the growing population.
In the arena of social service, intervention for families in crisis situations means the allocation of billions of pesos in welfare aid: resources which, if we are able to manage our population, could be allocated to the improvement of other forms of social services as well as economic investments. With the billions we now allot for social services, the next few years will see the doubling or tripling of such allocations to the extent that our national resources will be stretched to its breaking point. The resources of the government needed to provide for basic services are being drained rapidly by a burgeoning population, a big majority of which are economically-challenged and demanding for outright support from the government via subsidies or straight doleouts.
And to be concrete about these, huwag na tayong lumayo pa. Nasaan ba ang bahay ng POPCOM? Sa Addition Hills: Mandaluyong’s biggest barangay, aptly named Addition Hills dahil every year, addition ng addition ang mga pamilya sa Addition Hills. Just consider this: Addition Hills is the only barangay in Mandaluyong City that is home to four public schools. Wherever we turn, we see people in dire need of help, of families groaning in want as more children eat into their meager resources. Wherever we turn, we see children romping around the streets, playing as if there is no care in the world for them.
But let us cease to harp on what has gone on in the past. Let us now train our sights on the future, carefully taking into account the import of the situation we continue to face. And in this light, your goal is to reach for the gold through your commitment to engage even more strongly in the task of population management through the Population Management Directional Plan. It is still a daunting task for you, yet I am confident that with the resolve you have shown these past 49 years, the years ahead can only mean that you have learned your lessons, and will map out strategies and targets that are realistic and realizable.
I enjoin the POPCOM family to plod on. As you journey onward, we will be your partners as you seek to journey with other agencies, both within and outside of government, toward the prosperity we all seek. Let us keep in mind that our people—those born yesterday, those who live today, and those yet to be born—have the right to enjoy the abundant life promised by our Creator. We all have the right to life, and more so the right to a quality life after birth: the enjoyment of parental love, care and attention; the enjoyment of the privilege of education; the enjoyment of health; the enjoyment of the fruits of a democratic society. We will journey together, for we are partners in our people’s collective struggle for development and prosperity.
Congratulations to the POPCOM family.