OIC- Sec. Leyco’s Speech
Conference on the State of Children with Disabilities in the Philippines
Century Park Hotel
To the officials of the Department of Social and Development, the Council for Welfare of Children, our partners and stakeholders, good morning!
We believe that we should popularize more activities for children with disabilities with the aim to empower them and strengthen their confidence. We encourage schools and communities to hold advocacy campaigns and activities regularly, and these should be supported by government units from the local to national levels.
I would like to give a personal message to our children with disabilities who are with us now.
Dearest children, your parents and your teachers love and care for you very much, and our government and its agencies have the duty and responsibility to protect your welfare and ensure that you have options in society that will enable you to live happy and productive lives.
To our parents and teachers, I extend the same congratulations for all your hard and meaningful efforts to help our children with disabilities.
Having said this, however, we still need to emphasize that much still has to be done to help children with disabilities as, for instance, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) estimates that there are about 3.3 million children with disabilities in the country, or about 8 percent of the population between ages zero to 18.
The work of both public and private organizations to help children with disabilities is hampered by the lack of solid data. The UNICEF has even pointed out that the statistics are likely higher than 3.3 million, and actual figures are very hard to gauge because the concerns of children with disabilities involve a whole range of issues.
The Philippines was among the first signatories of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and the DSWD was among those who signed for the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is supported by national laws and local ordinances that uphold the rights of children with disabilities, including the Anti-Child Abuse Act (R.A. No. 7610) and the Child and Youth Welfare Code.
Our different government agencies as well as private sector organizations are already doing their part to push for more public awareness on the rights of children with disabilities. This includes partnerships between department agencies such as the DSWD and the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) and other public and private organizations. Various international groups also work with local government agencies for education and health programs. They have also pushed for the implementation of a benefit package for children with disabilities, and this has been approved for national implementation at PhilHealth.
We firmly believe that children with disabilities should be provided with all the support that the government can provide them.
We want them to grow up empowered so they can by themselves voice out their concerns, assert for the recognition of their rights, and push for reforms that will enable them to live lives in dignity in Philippine society.
Our tasks are clear when it comes to helping children with disabilities, and among them is to provide their families with information concerning their rights and entitlements to services and support. We have to be advocates on behalf of children with disabilities and their families to ensure that the best possible support and services are available from the communities where they live, the local government, and the national government itself. We also need to educate the greatest number of public policy-makers and the general community about needs of children with disabilities.
Ladies and gentlemen, children with disabilities should also be given the support they need so they can attend regular school.
We know that most Filipino parents are already very worried when their children experience learning problems in school. There are many different reasons for learning difficulties, but a common one may involve a specific learning disability. Learning disabilities affect at least 1 in 10 school children today. The issue is even more complex when we consider the situation faced by children with disabilities. Because of this, more has to be done to help children with disabilities attend school and be able to explore their potential and become confident in their own skills and abilities. They need to be taught that they can help themselves to achieve their own dreams and meet their own goals.
Disability is not inability. We need to take this to heart. Many schools close their doors to children with disabilities because they are aware that they have special needs that require expertise to address. We need to help these schools become champions of children with disabilities because they have so much to offer . For instance, we can and should construct toilets that are disability-friendly and ramps for the children using wheelchairs to move with ease. Tables and desks should be made to accommodate the special needs of children with disabilities.
More teachers should be trained on special education so they can teach children with disabilities the same that they teach ordinary children. In short, we should all work together to help all different categories of children.
There is no debating that education is very empowering, and education can help children with disabilities get increased access to health and other services, and develop a better awareness of their rights as they grow up. Towards this end, we hope that the DSWD and the NCDA will continue to pursue efforts to help children with disabilities through active advocacy work, and policy crafting and recommendations.
To everyone here today, let us all work together and build a more compassionate and caring environment for all children, including children with disabilities.
Magandang umaga at mabuhay kayo!
OIC. Secretary Emmanuel Leyco
931-7916 | 931-81-01 to 07 loc. 301-302