THE PHILIPPINES AND THE WORLD HEALTH
By FERDINAND E. MARCOS
President of the Philippines
(SPEECH DELIVERED BEFORE THE 19TH SESSION OF THE REGIONAL COMMITTEE FOR THE WESTERN PACIFIC REGION OF THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, PHILAMLIFE BUILDING, OCTOBER 1, 1968)
The Philippine Government takes pleasure in being the host to the 19th Session of the Western Pacific Regional Committee of the World Health Organization.
I am happy to welcome in our midst Dr. M. G. Candau, director general of the World Health Organization. I am likewise pleased to welcome the representatives of member countries and their delegations and the representatives of other international, bilateral and non-governmental organizations attending this regional meeting.
May I extend to you, Mr. Director General, the greetings of the Filipino people, as well as my own, on the successful completion of the 20th year of operation of the World Health Organization. We wish the organization continuing success in its effort to promote the health of all people of the world.
20th Year of Membership
I recall with justifiable pride the association of the Philippines with the World Health Organization almost from its inception. We were represented in 1946 at the international health conference, the body which presaged the World Health Assembly and which drafted the World Health Organization constitution. My government signed this constitution in 1948 and so the year of 1968 marks also the 20th year of our membership with the organization. Our people remember the honors bestowed by member governments on our distinguished sons: Dr. Juan Salcedo, Jr. who was elected president of the Fifth World Health Assembly in 1952, and Dr. Francisco J. Dy who was nominated to the regional directorship of the World Health Organization Western Pacific Region. Our country also appreciates the opportunity for service afforded a number of our citizens in the medical and allied professions who are working in other countries under the auspices of the World Health Organization.
Identity of Interests
One need not elaborate to explain the identity of interests that the Philippines has found with the World Health Organization. The organization’s principle that health is a fundamental right of every human being which governments should guarantee recalls a basic concept in our own Constitution.
The Philippines became a member of the World Health Organization barely two years after acquiring its independence in 1946. We had just gone through a war which devastated our country and dislocated our population. Sickness prevailed in many areas and health problems tended to slacken our efflorts towards national rehabilitation. We were, however, fortunate in receiving goodwill and assistance from external sources and among these was the World Health Organization. Since then, the organization has collaborated with our government in many ways.
The list of our collaborative efforts with the World Health Organization is long and only a few can be cited here.
In the late forties, yaws continued to be widely prevalent. With the World Health Organization and UNICEF assistance, the government initiated and pursued a nationwide control program. I am happy to report that, at present, this disease has been virtually eliminated from our land.
“Snail-fever” or schistosomiasis is a long-term wasting disease which is found in the east-central and southern part of the Philippines; these are areas which have been singled out for development and/or re-settlement. As this disease posed a threat to the government’s long-range plan, the World Health Organization was requested to assist in devising control measures. A pilot area was established in Leyte province which soon afterwards acquired international repute as a center for the study of schistosomiasis. It has been a few years since the project was terminated, but even as the government continues with the studies in this field, the experience previously gained continues to be useful to the country. Schistosomiasis control measures are at present being incorporated into the development activities being undertaken in the endemic areas.
I have specifically singled out, this project because the control of schistosomiasis is a pre-requisite to development in many critical areas. It is also significant that the control methods are associated in a large measure with developmental activities such as drainage operations for land reclamation, proper irrigation design and construction and scientific rice culture methods, not to speak of the regular sanitary measures which are a responsibility of the National Health Services.
Pivotal Areas of Activity
We are at present engaged, in association with the World Health Organization, in three pivotal areas of activity: malaria eradication, cholera control studies and the planning of a sewerage system for the Greater Manila area.
With international and bilateral collaboration, our national malaria program is fast building up into an effective national operation. The effort will be a difficult one. I am confident, however, that with application of the technical and administrative experience of the World Health Organization and the sustained effort and ingenuity of our people, the objectives of the program can be accomplished. We will then be able to overcome another barrier to our agricultural development program.
Over the past few years, the Philippines, with the collaboration of the World Health Organization and the government of Japan, has been undertaking cholera research with a view to eliminating once again the disease which we previously had eliminated fifty years ago. Unfortunately, cholera was re-introduced into the country in recent years and has now become endemic. I am informed that under existing circumstances, time and a great deal of effort will be required before cholera can be eliminated. We are determined, however, in continuing this task with external support until the disease is eliminated once and for all.
The development of a master plan for the sewerage system of Greater Manila is an undertaking financed under the technical assistance component of the United Nations Development Program with the World Health Organization as the executing agency. It is a preliminary step to facilitate, among others, the reduction of gastro-intestinal infections, including cholera, in our metropolitan population. The project should also lead to satisfying the service demands of our metropolis, relieve sanitary and other environmental nuisances and ensure aesthetic and other conveniences essential to the urban dweller.
Like many countries endeavoring to accelerate their development, the Philippines is faced with many demands for which its still scant resources are required. We are giving emphasis to expanding and strengthening the general infrastructure and increasing food production as they constitute the underpinnings for accelerating our economic development.
It is a fact, of course, that these efforts have also favorable social implications. Better roads and means of communication facilitate population movement between communities and thus promote national unity, stimulate the growth of commerce and the spread of culture. More and more people from formerly inaccessible areas are able to widen their mental and social perspectives, while educational opportunities for the young are enhanced. There are offered, in addition, greater opportunities for rural folks to avail themselves of better health and medical facilities existing in the larger centers of population.
As a result of concerted national efflort and technological development over the past three years, we have for the first time achieved a surplus in our rice production. We are thus assured not only of an adequate domestic supply but have ushered into our economy a new export product which we hope to increase in volume in the coming years. We have understandably concentrated on the rice production initially, but even now our agricultural sector is turning to the production of protein-rich foodstuff. By this token and with the resources available to us. I envisage that in the not too distant future our workers in the field of nutrition will be confronted with the problem of how to utilize scientifically and effectively the foodstuff already available rather than in worrying as to when and where the essential food elements will be secured.
In this connection we have launched a five-year nutrition program primarily designed to combat malnutrition among children of pre-school age.
Mental and Social Well-Being
The World Health Organization’s concept of health, now the goal of many national health efforts, looks beyond the physical and comprehends, in addition, optimal mental and social well-being. Adoption of this concept would behoove governments to satisfy also the social wants which will promote the complete well-being of their citizenry.
In promoting the well-being of our population we have, for instance, a land reform law which aims to improve the lot of our agricultural workers and help them acquire incentives to higher production. They are thus enabled to acquire the wherewithals for their social upliftment. Our potentials for growth require not raw but skilled manpower: the present administration is mobilizing this essential resource potential through extension of our health services and training facilities in order that our manpower can provide the sinews for an intensive and enlightened socioeconomic development.
In response to our people’s needs, our national health services development has received ample attention in the allocation of our resources.
In the previous year we witnessed the expansion of health services in the rural areas, with the deployment of more physicians, nurses, midwives and sanitary inspectors in our barrios, the establishment of more rural health units, and the procurement for this particular period of P16 million worth of medicines and other supplies, given free to the rural population.
Hospital services were increased and upgraded as 17 government and private hospitals were opened and 76 hospital plans and designs approved for immediate construction. Supplies and medicines worth P1.5 million were channeled to government hospitals for the benefit of our less fortunate countrymen.
We also established a cancer center with the cooperation of the private sector, the first of many cancer centers to be established in various parts of our country.
The Congress of the Philippines has under consideration a medicare legislation which seeks to broaden medical care services and extend their coverage to our population. As our resources increase, better coverage and more health facilities will be provided for the health protection of our population as this remains a fixed and a continuing policy of our government.
I have endeavored to give a panoramic view of our national health effort in the belief that our example typifies the efforts of other developing countries in our region. The fact is that much as we would like to accelerate the development of our economic sector, this would not be feasible until and unless we promote the health of our population and train them for their individual roles in the national development effort.
Programs of Common Interest
I understand that deliberations of the regional committee will be concerned not only with individual country programs but also with programs of common interest to member countries. My government is interested and would be prepared to support programs which will provide benefit to all. The Philippines had in the past contributed to a vaccine pool established by the World Health Organization to combat diseases like smallpox which breaks out from time to time in a number of countries.
My government is prepared to continue this participation in the vaccine pool as may be technically and administratively possible. My government is also prepared to share the facilities it possesses for the promotion of health in our region whether this be for the control of diseases, the training of health workers (as exemplified in the Malaria Eradication Training Center in Manila which is a joint government/WHO/US-AID undertaking), research or any health activity of common interest.
I am looking forward to the completion of the present negotiations between the University of the Philippines and the World Health Organization for the organization of courses on national health planning. These courses, I am informed, will be made available to international participants. It is my hope and wish that further- opportunities will become available to my government to cooperate with the World Health Organization and member countries in the area of health. Our common task will be to promote the health of the peoples living in the western Pacific region.
I express the sentiments of the Filipino people, and gratitude to all those in the World Health Organization, especially to the director-general, Dr. Candau, for the self-sacrifice and dedicated effort they have offered in the name of health, but actually in the name of all mankind, And I presume that the sentiments of the Filipinos are paralleled by all peoples of all nations, and all countries of our world.
To all of them, therefore, again, I say thank you, and welcome to our country.
Source: National Library