Through the 2022 Kaunlarang Pantao Awards, also known as the Rafael M. Salas POPDEV award, POPCOM lauded the outstanding efforts and accomplishments of cities and municipalities over the last three years across the country which contributed to the continuous conduct of the PPDP’s three key strategies. namely: responsible parenthood and family planning (RPFP), adolescent health and development (AHD), as well as population and development integration (POPDEV). 

The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) recently recognized several local government units which exhibited notable feats in advancing the Philippine Population and Development Program (PPDP) despite unprecedented adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the rollout of the said nationwide initiatives for Filipino families.

Cities ranked as top advocates for RPFP (for innovativeness and responsiveness in addressing related issues, demonstrated impact and outcome or effectiveness in outcome and output indicators, and sustainability of RPFP strategies) were Iloilo City; Santo Tomas, Batangas; and Borongan City, Eastern Samar. Their municipal counterparts were Lambunao, Iloilo; Kibungan, Benguet; and Lian, Batangas. 

Meanwhile, main proponents for AHD (same criteria as RPFP) were General Santos City; Cabuyao City, Laguna; Naga City, Camarines Sur; and Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental. For municipalities, Mariveles, Bataan; Duenas, Iloilo; and Pangil, Laguna topped the list.

Leading provincial capitals as implementers for POPDEV (in terms of reliability, timeliness and comprehensiveness of demographic and other relevant data, as well as utilization of population data) were San Carlos City, Pangasinan; Muntinlupa City; and Tabuk City, Kalinga. Municipalities included Libertad, Antique; Samal, Bataan; and Maddela, Quirino. 

At the awarding ceremonies in the City of Manila on June 23, 2022, POPCOM executives and their counterparts from partner-government agencies personally handed out the awards to key local government officials, including a number of local chief executives (LCEs) who received the KPA trophies and plaques on behalf of their cities or municipalities. 

Top-ranked cities and municipalities were also rewarded for their efforts in localizing the PPDP components in their areas notwithstanding the health crisis, with cash prizes worth P200,000, P150,000 and P100,000 for first, second and third placers, respectively.

Undersecretary for POPDEV Juan Antonio Perez III lauded the unrelenting efforts at the height of the pandemic of the distinguished LGUs, acknowledging that the situation they faced was “unexplored territory” for all, as local health systems had to prioritize combating Covid-19, while attention to RPFP, teens’ welfare and our other mandated work had to be scaled down.

“In the period of more than two years since we first felt the scourge of the pandemic, it could have been convenient for LGUs to simply sideline the PPDP in their efforts,” POPCOM’s executive director explained. “However, many municipalities and cities nationwide were resolute about the importance of the program positively affecting the quality of lives of their citizenry and communities; that these would just be too valuable to forego, fully cognizant of the aftereffects if they will just be set aside.”

Dr. Perez reminded the awardees that their successes need to be sustained, as there are areas in their work for PPDP which remain unattended and require full attention: “More couples still need to be reached, a lot of mothers to be cared for, countless adolescents protected from early and unintended pregnancies, and so many families need to be covered by decent, livable wages… the list goes on. I am however confident the LGUs in our midst will lead the march in addressing these societal concerns, as we look forward to better days ahead for our people.”

He also memorialized the legacy of Rafael M. Salas, the Filipino executive director of the United Nations Population Fund, or UNFPA. An advocate of the importance of understanding the links between POPDEV and the need to take population factors into account in development planning, the works of Salas enabled various nations to set up effective and efficient programs to manage population issues.  

Notable recipients of the award in recent years include former senators Dr. Juan M. Flavier and Leticia Ramos-Shahani, as well as a roster of demographers, academicians, medical practitioners, population management advocates, LCEs and population workers, among others. 

In 2019, the recognition was rebranded as Kaunlarang Pantao Award to capture the Filipino spirit of excellence and public service, while placing individuals at the center of development. It was revived this year after a 27-month hiatus because of the pandemic’s resultant restrictions in holding events. #