Twenty-third Special Session of the General Assembly "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century" New York, 5-9 June 2000
DR. AMELOU BENITEZ REYES
Chairperson, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women
Head of Delegation
Republic of the Philippines
New York, 7 June 2000
Mr. President, Excellencies:
My delegation appreciates all the efforts undertaken in preparation for this Conference. With mixed feelings of fulfillment and anxiety, my delegation is pleased to report on the Philippine country assessment, the achievements and obstacles in the pursuit of the many commitments we made in Beijing as well as our commitments in the years to come. Our year-long assessments in partnership with the Philippine NGO Score Board, has shown the critical areas that demand further attention by the government through its line agencies, LGUs, partner NGOs and the National Commission on the Role of the Filipino Women, the Philippine national machinery for the advancement of women, to attain the goals of the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA).
ACHIEVEMENTS AND OBSTACLES
Since Beijing, the lives of Filipino women have been seriously affected by the financial crisis that hit the region, including the Philippines. The advent of globalization and its negative consequences have exacerbated the pressures on our energies, material resources and our capability to effectively implement the commitments made in the twelve critical areas of concern of PFA. What has sustained our capacity to cope with the social, political and economic demands of an ever growing population, is the Philippine's commitment to strengthen the national machinery, the first in Asia which was established in 1975, twenty-five years ago, predating the ratification of CEDAW in 1979. Against the backdrop of harsh realities that confronted us during this period, our government, in partnership with NGOs and key institutions of the civil society, has endeavored to honor its commitments as best as it could.
First, a 30 - year plan presented in Beijing facilitated the realization of the Beijing Platform for Action with six years implementation schedules that coincided with the government's Medium Term Plan. This has served as operational guide to government and all institutional partners in implementing the strategic objectives of the Philippine commitments to the Beijing Platform, that is, an integrated approach to gender, poverty and governance. A database and indicator system on the 12 areas of concern were developed for monitoring and measuring the impact of policies and programs on the status of women. Furthermore, the planning and implementation of gender-responsive programs and projects were integrated into the roles and responsibilities of public officials and staff through individual performance contracts.
Unlike other plans that failed for lack of resources, the Philippine government took the bold step in initiating an affirmative action in the area of budgeting by legislating a GAD budget policy through the annual General Appropriations Act. This Act directs all government instrumentalities to allocate no less than five percent of their total budgets to implement the long term development plan for women empowerment. From 69 government agencies that complied in 1998, there are presently 134 government agencies which have complied with this budget policy. However, we must admit that the amounts allocated are still below target, because of budgetary constraints associated with the crisis. Some progress has also been attained in devolving GAD resources to local government units and to further intensify its implementation in the years ahead.
Gender Audit. Recognizing that the objects of expenditures do not necessarily give priority to the 12 critical areas which address barriers, obstacles, and lack of access to resources for women's empowerment and advancement, ongoing negotiations are being conducted with the Commission on Audit to establish a bill of GAD particulars.
GAD Focal Points were organized into a nationwide network for capability building, gender responsive planning, budgeting and monitoring. Among its projects is the documentation of women's contributions and achievements in various areas of our national life which have been systematically recorded as HERSTORY. This is being continued in order to model the lives of heroines for the girl-child through curriculum design.
Modules and tools for gender mainstreaming at the national and local levels have been adopted with an end in view of setting local commissions on women in 79 provinces and 1600 municipalities that comprise the Philippines.
We have also begun to turn over the enormous task of conducting gender training to private and public state colleges and universities, encouraging them to provide certification for different levels of GAD training: advocacy, gender focal persons, gender experts and gender specialists.
In the Civil Service Commission, we have implemented GAD principles in the recruitment, placement and retention of personnel, by instituting a quota of 30% in senior positions in the civil service as well as provided decisionmakers with a roster of qualified women for higher posting.
At the international level, the Philippines has initiated resolutions on migrant workers, rural women, women in indigenous communities, urban poor, women with disabilities, and older women. We have placed special
emphasis on mental health for special groups in the health agenda. More importantly, the Philippine government has signed the Optional Protocol to CEDAW and has begun the process of ratification by Congress.
At the national level, we have instituted a number of policies and legal measures. We have continued to strengthen policies that would uphold women's rights including that for indigenous peoples and peoples with disabilities and urban poor. We have amended most of the laws with discriminatory provisions, in compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. We have instituted mechanisms to ensure that new bills are subjected to gender analysis prior to their enactment.
We join delegations from countries with large populations of migrant workers in search of better opportunities to seek ways to provide for their future return and reintegration into our respective societies.
The practice of mail order brides has been outlawed.
Recently, with the support of the US Government, the Philippines hosted the, Asian Regional Initiative Against Trafficking in Women and Children, to develop action programmes as well as find a lasting solution to the problem of trafficking.
In response to cases of violence against women, 1,440 women's desks have been established in nearly all police precincts. Family courts have been established as well to deal with family-related cases of violence..
We have adopted a progressive law on rape that covers a wider definition of rape and similar crimes, imposed stiffer penalties for offenders, and implicitly recognized the existence of marital rape. Sexual harassment has been outlawed.
Poverty remains to be the single biggest factor that limits women's opportunities. Our government has strengthened women's perspectives in the national anti-poverty program of the Estrada administration. At the policy level, the women's sector is represented at the National Anti-Poverty Council. This helps ensure that the vulnerable women's groups among the indigenous people, the urban and rural poor and those with disabilities are included among the program targets.
Recently, we launched a four-billion peso loan window for women entrepreneurs, with the assistance of government and private financial institutions, providing them the means to increase their access to credit, training, market, information and technology.
A national technical and vocational training center for women was established by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority with the support of the Japanese government. It now regularly offers skills and entrepreneurship training for Filipinas in critical industries, such as food processing and jewelry making and in nontraditional occupations, such as welding.
Recognizing that regional and economic policies impact differently on women and men, we have also pursued the development of a framework for the integration of women in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). This Framework, which was adopted by the APEC LEADERS in 1998, led to the organization of the AGGI, ( SOM ADHOC Group on Gender Information). In 1999, the Philippines was designated the Project Overseer, to conduct gender information sessions in ALL the various APEC working groups.
CONTINUING COMMITMENTS AND FURTHER ACTIONS
• Strengthening the National Machinery
The Philippine government reiterates its commitment to the Platform for Action and the Outcome Document with a renewed desire to strengthen the national machinery through the enactment of a legislation establishing the Philippine Development Authority for Women. This will enable the national machinery to extend its functions from policy review and formulation to coordinating the implementation of plans and programs and setting up sub-national offices for that purpose.
The national machinery will strengthen its linkages with the non-government organizations and establish strategic alliances with private corporations towards implementing non-discriminatory recruitment and promotion, providing familyfriendly working environment and women facilities and services in the work place as well as developing women-friendly products and services.
Operationalizing the recommendations of the Beijing Plus Five review shall be our principal agenda. The drafting of a GAD Plan for women's empowerment for the year 2000-2004 has begun, integrating gender, poverty and governance. It is our vision to institute an effective accountability system through the Gender Mainstreaming Management System, with a better way of identifying the programs and projects of the 12 critical areas for women's empowerment to achieve gender equality. This is where the active collaboration with the women's movements and NGOs can be undertaken as the institutional partners of the Philippine machinery for women. In addition, the Commission National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women) as the Philippine machinery for women shares these responsibilities with the oversight agencies, in monitoring the implementation of the GAD budgets by building organizational capabilities of the State auditing system as well as the national economic and development planning agency, (National Economic Development Authority), budget and management, (Department of Budget and Management) as well as the civil service (Civil Service Commission) and local governments (Department of Interior and Local Governments).
To fill the gaps and obstacles that have lessened the effective implementation of the Platform, we shall explore with foreign donors and local benefactors from the private sector, the setting up of a one billion peso (equivalent to US$250 M) perpetual trust fund, whose earnings will be earmarked for direct financial assistance to the women's movement and NGOs in order to accelerate the implementation of the Platform.
Finally, we wish to get your support to fast track State actions beyond Beijing Plus Five. With the extensive experiences and insights generated by national machineries from years of pursuing women's empowerment, gender equity and equality, a regional mechanism through a South-South cooperation, for collaboration and systematic exchange of learnings, by and among national machineries and agencies dealing with women's concerns can be organized.
Unless new sources of funds and resources are made available for national machineries either at the global level or at the national level, the prospects of achieving the objectives of the Beijing Platform in the next five years will remain dim. A one billion dollar trust fund, can be set up by an appropriate UN agency for this purpose or possibly at the World Bank, or the Asian Development Bank or other financial institutions. Commitments from donor countries as well as funds from large multinational corporations can be tapped. National machineries should be given the authority by their respective governments to borrow at low interest rates, for the continued implementation of the critical actions of the Beijing Platform.
Ladies and gentlemen, our work is far from over. Women's leadership role in the new millennium should manifest unique strengths and qualities, intuitive energies, compassion, faith in human capacities and goodness, caring, healing and nurturing. These are essential in defining a social paradigm that will bring about peace rather than violence and aggression, and a better life for all.
Let us look at the Outcome Document of the Beijing Platform for Action as both a challenge and as an impetus to translate the commitments made here into a policy of governance that considers women's potentials and needs. After all, effective governance without a gender perspective is not governance at all. Thank you.