CCI President Amb. Donald Dee, PCCI Chairman Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., PRISM Chief of Party Lief Doerring, Ms. Joji Ilagan-Bian, guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to thank the PCCI for inviting me to this event and for this opportunity to be involved with your members in a social issue that I consider of high priority for our collective action. I am glad to read from the invitation for this project you are launching today PCCI considers this as a new opportunity for its members coming from the SMEs, the local chamber of commerce, the industry associations, and the large enterprises to be part of the solution in addressing the many controversial issues in population management. I am happy to note that PCCI takes this project as a demonstration of how the business sector becomes a more active provider of human development and economic reforms and progress.
With the launching of this project, the PCCI will be actively engaging you its members, to act and "walk your talk". Those of you who will be participating in this search will design programs that suit your particular situations. The award will seek those who are innovative and successful. From among you will arise workable models that will serve as benchmarks that best exemplify how it is to be productive and competitive, while being socially responsible.
As I have pointed out in various fora here and abroad, arresting the population growth in this country, which is among the highest in the developing world, is an imperative to get our economy to move faster and reduce poverty levels in this country. Today, the country's average per capita income and labor productivity are still at about the same levels as it was in early 1980's, because of our rapid population growth. The country doubled its population from 36.8 million in 1970 to 76.9 million in 2000. In 2005, our population stands at 85.2 million, and if we don't do anything now, our population will surely exceed 100 million in less than 10 years time.
The government has promulgated its medium term development plan which establishes a 10 point plant for economic and social development. Among the goals to be accomplished by 2010 are :
1. To bring down population growth rate from 2.36% to 1.9%;
2. To bring poverty incidence down from 33%to 20%
According to a study by the professors of the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines made in December 2004, these 2 goals cannot be achieved because to achieve the first goal of bringing down the population growth rate from 2.36% to 1.9%, the contraceptive use --“ now at 49%, would have to be increased by 48% yearly and would require drastic shift in contraceptive methods used from traditional to modern and a budgetary allocation of Php 1.25 billion a year for the contraceptives, which I understand has not been done.
Similarly, to bring the poverty incidence down from 33% to 20% would require a per capita GDP growth of at least 3% per year, which is much higher than the historical average from mid 1980 onward.
Repeatedly public opinion surveys have shown that overpopulation is one of the country's most serious problem.
In the Pulse Asia Survey on February 2004, virtually all Filipinos nationwide affirm the importance of the ability to control one's fertility or plan one's family. Moreover, 7 out of 10 Filipinos believe that rapid population growth impedes the country's development. Further, a vast majority (82%) are of the opinion that candidates favoring family planning should be supported rather than rejected in elections.
These results were again validated by another public opinion survey done in May 2005. 85% of those surveyed said that the Philippines is over populated, while 84% believe that government action is needed to slow down population growth in order to develop the country. Is it possible then that neither the government nor the church are heeding what the people are asking for and want done? Why?
It is my own personal opinion that the most important stumbling block to the implementation of an effective population program in this country is the lack of political will at the top. It may not be nice to say this, but this is a fact, that our country, has had 2 women presidents in the past 20 years who were brought to power, partly with the help of the church, and more particularly by a prince of that church, and that these two women presidents wee and are beholden to the church and would not want to do anything to displease or hurt their benefactor. Thus, in the past few years, the national government has completely abdicated its role and wash its hands off the family planning program and left its implementation to local government units or LGUs, a step which is tantamount to the kiss of death to these programs.
In such a situation, it behooves the private sector to do what it can, on its own initiative, without expecting any help from the government, at least until 2010, when we will have new national elections again, and hopefully new political leaders will emerge who would want this country to move faster and keep up with its neighbors in this region.
Let me now give you a brief summary of what the Lopez Group is doing in the area of family planning.
As Chairman of the Lopez Group business conglomerate, I issued in the past a directive to all the members of the Group for the integration of family planning and other reproductive health services in the Lopez Group human resource development programs. More than compliance to Article 134 of the Philippine Labor Code and DOLE Department Order, the major members of the Group have looked into reproductive health as part of their wellness program for their employees and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda. Under a project also funded by the USAID PRISM, the Lopez Group has five companies who have been vigorously installing a Family Planning Program in their workplaces since January this year. These are Meralco, ABS CBN Broadcasting Corp., Sky Cable, Tollways Management Corp., and First Sumiden Circuits. Together, they have over 7,000 employees in the reproductive age. The Lopez Group addresses the needs of our employees who are willing to volunteer to join the program. The participating companies have activities that include profiling of employees according to their family planning needs, customizing a family planning program design and implementation plan, the evaluation of clinic facilities and service provider capability to provide family planning services; and the setting-up of a peer motivators program. In addition, there is a capability-building activities, regular evaluation to determine the progress of the program, and to make it a sustainable component of the human resource and corporate social responsibility agenda.
We in the Lopez Group know the benefits of installing in our workplaces a reproductive health program. We feel the enhanced relationship with our workers who perceive this as a manifestation of management's concern for their welfare. Our managers understand the increased productivity arising from less incidents of maternity and child related absenteeism and the savings that are generated from less maternity related expenses. The training programs that are important component of the installation strengthen the skills of our medical and volunteer teams in the management, implementation and monitoring this type of project.
Let me share with you some statistics that came from the first survey our 5 participating companies in the Lopez Group conducted 2 months ago. There may be similarities with your own situations at your workplaces and lessons you can draw from our strategies.
The representative sample of the employees from the Lopez Group has a profile that showed there is a significant number at 30 percent who are not using any family planning methods. Incidentally, this statistic compares favorably with the national average of 64% not using ay family planning methods at all. Those include employees who want to have children later, or who want no more children, and women who are considered as high risk. Nearly half of the total number of employees indicated a need for family planning. Almost 70 percent want more information about family planning.
From the information we have culled as baseline, the 5 Lopez Group companies designed a family planning program that could achieve for our employees the following results:
a) As the survey found that 7 percent of all pregnancies of our respondents have either led to abortion or miscarriages, we seek to reduce the risks and burden for a number of female employees. They include those who want to have children later, or who want no more children, or with more than 4 children, or with children whose age is less than 3 years old;
b) Avert the incidence of unplanned pregnancies among employees not wanting to have more children but are not currently using any family planning methods;
c) Provide more effective methods/choices to those employees already motivated to use family planning but using inappropriate methods;
d) Address the need for more information on family planning by many of the employees.
More than the positive economic returns the program brings to business, we look at our family planning program as about protecting and saving the lives of the mothers among our employees, and assisting in creating the conditions for better opportunities of our workers' children.
In the Lopez Group, the family program we are installing is using several approaches. I am hoping you can also pick up some ideas from these approaches as we establish our own standards for best practice in the Lopez Group. We are involving our predominantly male employees in companies like the Meralco, SkyCable, and ABS-CBN. We are looking at establishing cost-sharing schemes with employees who are willing to pay for services. There is a networking with internal or external service providers like Friendly Care Foundation who have facilities to cater to the high demand for methods such as ligation, vasectomy, or IUD. Our campaigns focus on addressing misconceptions, and information about range of FP methods. We are also looking at expanding the coverage of the program to include employees' spouses.
Our employees as stakeholders help define the criteria and the process for the program. The elements of vigorous leadership, effective information, education, and communications, linkages, training for our medical team and volunteers, structures for sustainability are the areas of challenges which we are building on.
Where it is feasible, installing a family program has also been expanded to the outlying communities as part of the Lopez Group social responsibility agenda.
Let me cite to you what we have done under the collaboration of the First Philippine Holdings Corporation (FPHC) with the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP) at Paliparan, Dasmarinas, Cavite, a relocation site of approximately 7,000 households evicted from the reclamation area of Manila Bay in 1993. With a 3.9% population growth rate and high incidences of early marriages brought about by early pregnancies, the site also has high incidence of drug abuse and related problems, gambling by the youth, a rising number of out-of school youth, and low opportunities for income generation. FPHC's current program provides assistance to the community organization which it has trained. They support a health and counseling center called Kaagapay Center to complement the services of the rural health unit and implement a program of education with community volunteer health workers to promote health seeking behaviors. The program links with the health units of the area, pharmaceutical companies, and other NGO service providers.
Allow me also to share with you what the Lopez family is doing currently in Jaro, Iloilo, where the Lopez family traces its roots. I am hoping this will demonstrate what can be done on the family level for our "kapamilyas" who most need our assistance.
On July 20 this year will be the 105th birth anniversary of my father Eugenio Lopez Sr. who is the founder of the Lopez Group of companies and who practiced corporate social responsibility long before the phrase was coined and its principal tenet widely understood. This legacy, which spans over 130 years, of letting the private sector take responsibility for the public good continues to the present day, with even more dynamism and vigor and demonstrated by the programs of the Lopez Group's 7 foundations and various corporate and family philanthropy. To commemorate the event, the Lopez family has decided to implement projects that will help improve the quality of life of the communities within the district of Jaro, which is now part of Iloilo City. These projects address needs in housing, nutrition, education, and reproductive health and implemented by our partners such as Gawad Kalinga, Bantay Bata and Knowledge Channel. Together with the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines Iloilo Chapter, the Lopez family is undertaking activities with focus on childbearing, fertility regulation, child rearing and care. The beneficiaries from the depressed communities in Jaro include lactating mothers, couples who need family planning, tricycle drivers, and parents from our feeding program.
We know from our Asian neighbors that their sharp reductions in poverty was a result of sustained economic growth, attributable to good economic policies coupled with a strong population policy. They had learned about the dynamics of population, productivity, and economic development and resolved to act fast. On the other hand, we as a nation are still putting our act together.
The appeal to our political and church leaders must be reinforced until the country has a workable and consistent population policy. We need the cooperation of all groups in society, and with you the members of the PCCI, we can forge a strong team to successfully confront this very serious problem.
The Lopez Group of companies who I represent is fully committed to charting this course we are taking with PRISM and now together with PCCI for the improvement of the quality of life of our "kapamilya" Filipino and his family's welfare.
The business practices this PCCI award will identify through this competition will establish standards of excellence and an inventory of learning's which will prove valuable for us all who are seeking to ultimately reduce the pressures coming from our rapid population growth. We look forward to your success stories.
Our best wishes and congratulations go to the PCCI and PRISM and the Family Welfare Excellence Award in the Workplace Program.