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March 7, 2013



(Delivered by Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona)

 I am honored to speak on behalf of the President today. Allow me to share with you his message for this occasion:

For the past fifty-two years, the Philippine Academy of Physicians has been a partner of the government in safeguarding the health and welfare of the Filipino family. Today, we recognize the invaluable service your organization has provided and continues to provide to our countrymen.

From promoting medical education, to assisting communities with their medical needs, you have been with us at the forefront of advancing quality healthcare service for every Filipino. Being a medical professional, especially one in the field health, is not easy.  But despite the difficulties that greet you every day, you have continued to tread this oftentimes difficult path, dedicating your talent, skill, and time to helping our countrymen. And for this, I extend my sincerest gratitude.

We are heartened by the presence of so many who share one vision: to see each Filipino live a life of dignity, empowering him to take hold of his destiny in order to direct himself and his community towards progress. For our part, our administration's commitment to universal healthcare is one that we have backed up with concrete and beneficial action. In the past years, we have worked hand-in-hand with various stakeholders--medical professionals such as yourselves, policy-makers, and civil society--to widen access to quality healthcare. And we have made great strides in the first half of our term, proving that the dreams we have for the Philippines are within reach--that meaningful and transformational change can be wrought in society--so long as we all work together and ensure that no one is left behind.

Who would have thought that after languishing for so many years in congress, the Responsible Parenthood and the Sin Tax Reform Bill would be passed and signed even into law-- measures that will enable us to expand much needed healthcare services in our nation. Who would have thought that the poorest Filipino households would be able to receive treatment and health assistance without falling deeper into medical debt because of the No Balance Billing Policy? Who would have thought that today 86 percent of our population would be enrolled in the expanded Philhealth coverage, even as more Filipinos receive treatment and care for catastrophic diseases like acute leukemia and breast cancer through our Z-Benefit package?

And this is not all. Through our Health Facilities Enhancement Program, we have invested 15.5 billion pesos in the upgrading, rehabilitation, and construction of health facilities. I am told that to date a total of 3,258 health facilities in the country have been either upgraded or constructed, 2,751 of which benefit the 609 priority municipalities identified by the National Anti-Poverty Commission. For 2013, we have allotted 13.55 billion pesos to fund the construction and rehabilitation of 2,487 health facilities.

Aside from the national funding for upgrading the health facilities, we have laid the groundwork for the implementation of various Public-Private Partnership (or PPP) schemes which will pave the way for the modernization of 38 hospitals and 9 cancer centers, 8 heart specialty centers and 7 transplant centers.  We now have a PPP Unit in the DOH, the Center for Excellence in PPP in Health, which is tasked with overseeing these initiatives.

To combat influenza and pneumonia, we are providing our senior citizens free vaccines. From 2011 to 2012, over one million of our elderly received free vaccine for influenza while close to four hundred thousand were vaccinated for pneumonia.

As part of our strategy to attain our Millennium Development Goal of reducing infant deaths, we made the Rotavirus Vaccination free to the lowest quintile of our population, making us the first Southeast Asian nation to do so. And I am glad to say that we have immunized 217,000 children during the last quarter of 2012. We are determined to cover 700,000 poor children by June 2013.

These are without doubt the results of positive reform and good governance. If in the past our people were left to fend for themselves, now they have a government that stands by them, ready to protect them. If in the past, corruption funneled funds away from projects that could truly help our people, now we are making sure that the money of the Filipino people works for them. If in the past, healthcare was an afterthought of a government intent on serving the interests of a few above the many, now it is a vital cog in our strategy of investing in our people.

All our efforts redound to empowering our countrymen to become productive members of society. And we are fortunate to have the ASEAN Region Primary Care Physicians Association as our partner, helping ASEAN member-states by sharing information and best practices among them. Together, we are ensuring that Filipino parents remain healthy and fit for the jobs that allow them to put food on their tables. Together, we are ensuring that schoolchildren need not miss a day of learning because of treatable diseases. Together, we are not only empowering Filipinos--we are truly saving their lives.

The challenge for us now is to persevere, to work even closer together. After all, it is through cooperation that we can ensure that our common vision is achieved; that our people are enabled to truly fulfill their potential. It is through this that our nation and our ASEAN region grow.

Through our continued partnership, we can affect greater, more meaningful change for every individual Filipinos, to their communities, and ultimately the entire nation. We have planted the seeds of reform and are now reaping the fruits of equitable progress. Together, we can create bigger things, attain higher aspirations, and leave a legacy of positive change--a self-sustaining virtuous cycle--to future generations of Filipinos.

Thank you, and good day.