by Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III, MD, MPH
Executive Director, POPCOM

To my beloved fellow workers of the Commission on Population and Development, partners in the field of POPDEV in national and local agencies: It is my ardent wish that all of us have a grace-filled day!

In November, we held the observance of the 28th POPDEV Week, and it is fitting that we culminate our commemoration by imparting a message on the current State of Philippine Population and Development.

The close of the current decade between 2011 and 2020 is important for us because of these noteworthy milestones:

  • It saw the first eight years of our perseverance for the fulfillment of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act 10354, or the RPRH Law)
  • It was the first six years of striving to fulfill the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • The past two years witnessed our efforts for the National Program on Population and Family Planning
  • It ushered the first year of the global health crisis brought about by COVID-19

The conclusion of 2020 and the start of the new decade (2021 to 2030) will be significant for the country’s POPDEV:

  • The Philippines’ breakthrough to attain its demographic dividend is in 2025
  • The intensification of the country’s efforts for the SDGs will occur at that time, which serves as a platform to accomplish the government’s Ambisyon 2040

I am fully aware of everyone’s efforts and contributions in pushing forward our mission in enabling “Strong, Comfortable and Protected Filipino Families,” because I know for a fact that each of us has a role to play in order to continuously and collectively reach our overall objectives to help every Filipino achieve that state.

At the start of 2020, I recognize that everyone has been enthusiastically carrying on what we have started for the NPPFP, which is an integral part of the Philippine Population Management Program in our daily POPDEV activities. That enthusiasm, however, was overtaken by anxiety, fear and doubt brought by the spread of the pandemic being borne heavily not only by Filipinos, but also the rest of humanity. The fight versus an unseen enemy still pervades; the calamities—both natural and man-made—have brought untold damages and suffering with the loss of countless lives. All these have posed a challenge to us: to rise above, act and follow through what we have started for the sake of our fellowmen.

In fulfilling our tasks, whether in the area of demand generation or providing services and information, especially to mothers deprived of the chances to experience the essence of motherhood: to provide and care for their children—particularly in the early stages of life, I know I am one with you in responding to their needs. We can harness any platform, such as discussions about pertinent legislation, advocacies, or the expanded delivery of providing family planning communications, either via personal interactions, or mainstream and social media.

It is only apropos that our partners in POPDEV be considered “overachievers” in the face of limited resources or materials, as they were able to generate enough momentum for the next decade.

We were able to overcome the hurdles of the RPRH Law and a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court. In the face of such, the Responsible Parenthood and Family Planning program has proven its ability to double the number of current modern family planning users: from 3,942,427 at the end of 2012 to 7,756,568 at the end of 2019—a 97-% increase.

In the area of Adolescent Health and Development: From an adolescent teenage birth rate of 57 per thousand in 2013, that number has gone down to 47 per thousand in 2017.

In POPDEV, current estimates from the Philippine Statistics Authority have the five-year total fertility rate or TFR from 2015 to 2020 at 2.5. Given that, the country is on course to attain a TFR of 2.1 or 2.2 in 2025.

We are in the face of historic times in our line of work. Based on our previous successes, we are in the so-called “last mile” to realize the country’s demographic dividend, which will initiate once we reach the desired TFR of 2.1.

Our new aspirations will commence once we take the initial steps toward 2021. Needless to say, we need to recover from a possibly low performance of the NPPFP because of COVID-19.

Last year, our battle cry was: #UsapTayoSaFamilyPlanning. Why is this so?

Because small families are keys for development of the population.

Because small families are more resilient and are more adept to face dangers due to pandemics or emergencies.

Because small families are vital in achieving a state of Progressive Communities for all Filipinos.

Looking into the future with renewed strengths will serve as our seeds of hope that this current crisis will somehow end; that every one of us will adapt in the way of the “new normal” in the midst of the trials of the pandemic.

As we bid adieu to 2020, allow me to express my gratitude to all of you who were instrumental in driving our programs, so they can continue to bring information and services, along with other partners in health spanning all regions of the country.

Come 2021, I believe each of us will carry renewed strength and unwavering vitality, ready to bring benefits to our fellowmen—regardless of their standing in society—as well as cheer to every Filipino individual and family.

Pandemic, calamities or any obstacle to our program notwithstanding, I believe we can bounce back from the travails we face in life. Because only through our common cadence toward a single direction can we channel each other’s strengths, with the conviction that we will all be united, no matter what happens.

Long live our workers of population and development!