Remarks by Deputy Mission Director Reed Aeschliman, Just One- PWD Day

Monday, May 19, 2014

[As Prepared]

Department of Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz
Representative Alfred Vargas of the Fifth Disctrict of Quezon City
Mr. Bien Mateo, of SM Cares
Fr. Nonnette Legaspi of the Diocese of Novaliches
Mr. Alsee Bello Chairman of the Board of Bigay Buhay Multipurpose
Officials of Philippine Government Agencies, local government units,
PWD supporters, changemakers and movers
Ladies and gentlemen.

Magandang umaga. Good morning to all of you.

On behalf of the American people and the U.S. Embassy Manila’s United States Agency for International Development, allow me to extend our sincere appreciation for inviting us to participate in today’s celebration of the Persons with Disabilities Day. I am honored to be among leaders from the government, private sector, and the PWD community, who are championing the rights and welfare of persons with disabilities.

Throughout the years, disability has remained largely invisible in the mainstream development agenda. Studies reveal that Persons with Disabilities are considered the most marginalized and economically disadvantaged groups.

Based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing conducted by the National Statistics Office, approximately 1.5 million Filipinos have disabilities, representing 1.57 percent of the country’s population. More than half (59 percent) of them belong to the working age group of 15 years old and over. Out of these, only half (750,000 people) are employed or bring Cooperative and civil society and philanthropic organizations some form of income to their household. This means that half of the Persons with Disabilities population cannot contribute to their families’ income.

And speaking of family income, the average annual salary of a Persons with Disabilities household ranges from Php19,000 to Php29,000, which is far below the 2010 Philippines per capita income of Php88,000 ($2,000).

In the Philippines and across the globe, persons with disabilities face physical, social, economic and attitudinal barriers that exclude them from participating as equal members of society. They are among the poorest in the country and they do not have equal access to education, employment, credit, healthcare, voting, and other social and economic opportunities.

The struggles of Persons with Disabilities are compounded by poor nutrition, exposure to chemical substances, aging, road accidents, disease and violence.

Meanwhile, the rest of the country is riding on a speedy trajectory of economic growth. This growth is not inclusive - not yet. It is necessary for all Filipinos to have equitable access to healthcare, jobs, and other opportunities to improve their lives and livelihood to truly achieve sustained, inclusive economic growth.

Recognizing this same vision, the Philippine government has made significant leaps towards bettering the lives of Persons with Disabilities. Several laws, policies and programs toward the protection, rehabilitation and development of this integral part of the country’s population have been implemented. Let us continue to translate these programs and policies into actions that will reap tangible results.

USAID is pleased to partner with Bigay Buhay Multipurpose Cooperative to implement the Support the Employment and Livelihood of Persons with Disabilities (SELP) project. Through this project, USAID will help remove barriers and create inclusive communities that will allow greater economic opportunities for Persons With Disabilities. Together with our partners, we will empower Persons With Disabilities to obtain decent work and produce income generating activities, gain economic rights, and become productive members of the community.

I am also pleased to announce that through this project, USAID is providing Opportunities Funds for Persons with Disabilities. This fund will help Persons with Disabilities pursue income generating activities and increase their capacity to become economic contributors. This year, we will award Php1 million to successful organizations and individuals in Metro Manila, Cebu and Davao.

Some of our awardees are here with us today. Mr. Ricardo Baticos is one of the 10 Individual awardees of the “Opportunities Fund”. Mr. Baticos used to be a construction worker until he met an unfortunate accident. A father of three children, Mr. Baticos has continuously strived to find an alternative source of income. Today, we are pleased to support Mr. Baticos “Kalan”-making business (note: Kalan – is a Filipino term for local or biomass cooking stoves). Mr. Baticos, you are truly an inspiration to many fathers in this country by continuing to work hard to ensure a better future for your children.

Today, we will also award five Persons with Disabilities groups to pursue their respective income generating activities. One of these is “Litter Light” – a group composed of 20 men and women who will sell solar light bulbs. We are excited to support this group as we share the same interest of creating clean, sustainable energy. As you may know, USAID is working with the Philippine Government, civil society organizations and other stakeholders to promote innovative and environment-friendly sources of energy and we are proud to promote this cause by supporting your group.

To the rest of the awardees, allow me to extend our congratulations. We look forward to hearing about your accomplishments in your journey towards economic empowerment.

We are pleased to support the many movers and changemakers that promote a more inclusive economic environment. Let us continue to work together and remove all barriers that affect the inclusion and participation of persons with disabilities in our society.

Maraming salamat po!

Issuing Country