Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Philippines
During the 2009 World Breastfeeding Celebration
[Delivered at the Heroes Hall, Malacañang, August 27, 2009]
Thank you, Boboy for your introduction.
Our other Cabinet members: Espie and Jing. And we have, I see too, former Cabinet members in our audience, my Dad’s NEC chairman, the former NEDA Larry Henares, and former DOT Secretary Tony Gonzales. Congresswoman Bondoc, City Mayor Bautista, Elvira and the other leaders of the Breastfeeding Movement, ladies and gentlemen:
Welcome to Malacanang on this year’s celebration of World Breastfeeding Month!
Since our proclamation in 2005, every year, we have held a program in Malacañan Palace to celebrate this very important month for mothers and infants. We do it to show our endorsement of the most economical way to nourish infants. We do it to support natural family planning practices because breastfeeding is indeed a safe method of natural family planning. We do it because we want only the best for the Filipino child, and that includes the best source of baby’s nutrition — mother’s milk.
Breastfeeding as you have heard from our Department of Health representative is part of our five-year national program for Infants and Young Child Feeding. And for this cause let me say that our mentor is a gentleman I mentioned earlier, Larry Henares, my late father’s chairman of the National Economic Council.
It is not only women who can be advocates of the breastfeeding movement. In fact, aside from Secretary Henares, there is an outstanding American gentleman who played a key role in the international movement to make people aware, more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding.
We offer the deepest sympathies of the Filipino people to the family of that gentleman, the late U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, who just passed away yesterday. And it is fitting we hold this celebration today also to commemorate his memory and his contributions.
Senator Kennedy, Edward Kennedy was the youngest of the famous Kennedy brothers who contributed much to the U.S. advancement in human rights, in standing up to the Soviets during the Cold War, and in asserting the superiority of democracy over totalitarianism. Aside from what he did in common with his brothers, among Senator Edward Kennedy’s greatest achievements were accomplished as chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. In this role he served the Philippines and the world when he chaired a session in 1979, that is 30 years ago, of the U.S. Senate Sub-Committee on Health to hear the testimony of a Filipina doctor, Dr. Natividad Clavano, about a 10,000-baby study on the experiences of the General Hospital in Baguio City. The study had shown a 95 percent decrease in infant mortality as the result of exclusive breastfeeding.
Reacting to this and related findings, Senator Edward Kennedy hurled a challenge to the World Health Organization. In two years’ time, the WHO formulated the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and other Related Products.
For his singular role in promoting human rights and public health, including the passage of that International Milk Code, we honor the late Senator Edward Kennedy. And we will soon present to his family our highest Presidential award, through Special Envoy Dr. Elvira Lichauco Henares-Esguerra for the public health component of the award and Presidential Adviser Sonny Alvarez for the human rights component of the award.
We also recall the pivotal role played by Dr. Nicholas Alipui, who was in the audio visuals today, former UNICEF country representative to the Philippines and now the programme director of the UNICEF, his role was large in promoting breastfeeding in our country. So, also through Elvira, our special envoy, we will be awarding him the Order of the Golden Cross, rank of Maringal na Krus.
But, these are the men who have helped us very much in the breastfeeding movement. But let us not forget the women. We further commend Elvira and Dr. Nona Castillo for their herculean efforts, in fact, they have been behind the revival of interest in breastfeeding in the country. We also thank my cabalen Congresswoman Anna York Bondoc for today in the Philippines though we have a Milk Code, we have to strengthen that with a strong implementing rules and regulations which the Supreme Court has upheld. And now, thanks to the efforts in Congress of Anna, hopefully, those implementing rules and regulations can be institutionalized into a revised Milk Code.
Through the efforts of Larry, Elvira, Nona, Anna, our Cabinet members here, the breastfeeding movement has gained a lot of supporters in our country, including those in disaster prevention and mitigation — and earlier, Elvira already acknowledged them — the boy scouts, the nurses, the policemen, the firemen from different walks of life, that seem to have nothing to do with breastfeeding but a lot to do with disaster response. There is so much support for breastfeeding that, as pointed out earlier by Elvira, we even won the Guinness World Records for several first in breastfeeding. So, congratulations for all of that!
The more advocates we have, the stronger the movement becomes to reach out and convince every mother to breastfeed their child. The mothers who are the staunchest supporters of this movement are willing to breastfeed even infants who are not their own. We saw earlier the heroic effort, the heroic role that the Chinese policewoman played after the Sichuan earthquakes, when she breastfed nine of the surviving babies. Without her breastfeeding other mother’s babies, those babies would also have perished in the aftermath of that earthquake. That is why, as you saw also in the audio visual, we presented to her the World Breastfeeding Gold Medal Award in Beijing last year.
So, once again, in closing, I thank and congratulate all of you for your support and leadership in the breastfeeding movement. And together, our message to the Philippines is — and this is a message that was carried by our media because they always carry my speeches:
“Muli, tinatawagan natin ang sambayanan: suportahan nating lahat ang Breastfeeding Movement. Ang gatas ng ina ay mas matipid at mas masustansya. Nakakatipid tayo, nakakatulong tayo sa natural family planning, at higit sa lahat mas nakasisiguro tayo na magiging malusog at matalino ang ating mga sanggol at anak.”
Mabuhay ang mga ina at mga sanggol ng Pilipinas!
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
Macapagal-Arroyo, G. (2009). President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s speech during the 2009 World Breastfeeding Celebration. Retrieved https://web.archive.org/web/20100412100228/http://www.op.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=26194&Itemid=38