By VERA Files
THE Western Visayas Regional Council for Disability Affairs is hosting a two-day summit for persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Iloilo City, one of the many ways government agencies in the Visayas will be celebrating National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week.
NDPR Week, which falls on July 17 to 23, carries the theme "Mainstreaming Persons with Disabilities Program in Economic Development."
Blesilda T. Mabilog, Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) consultant and team leader in Iloilo City, sees the summit as the perfect opportunity to highlight the need to implement Memorandum Circular 2010-103 issued by Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo in 2010.
The circular reminds local government units to implement Republic Act 10070 mandating them to set aside part of their budget to PDAO and similar organizations. Budgetary constraints have hampered the region's Council for Disability Affairs' efforts to implement programs and projects for the sector.
About 150 to 200 PWD participants and supporters Iloilo, Capiz, Guimaras, Aklan, Antique and Negros Occidental are expected to attend the summit, which will start with a mass at 9 a.m. on July 17.
At the summit, representatives of Philhealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corporation) and the Department of Health (DOH) will discuss PWDs' right to health insurance, Mabilog said.
The Department of Labor and Employment, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Department of Trade and Industry will share their PWD-friendly programs and projects. The election of officers of the Regional Federation of PWDs will cap the summit.
The Iloilo City PDAO will hold its own NDPR week activities with a transport forum on July 19, aimed at gathering about 50 leaders of the public transport sector, as well as heads of the Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchise and Regulatory Board and the Transport Management and Traffic Regulation Office.
The forum aims to discuss the proper and effective implementation of Local Ordinance No. 605 which exempts pregnant women, senior citizens, and PWD from the loading and unloading areas of public utility vehicles.
On July 20, the Iloilo City PDAO will hold a forum on access to information specifically for those with hearing impairment. "We will be inviting interpreters and having dialogues with them to see how they can assist the deaf regarding their problems involving justice, employment and basic services and empowerment," Mabilog said.
On July 21, a three-kilometer fun run for the benefit of Federation of PWDs in Iloilo City will be held at Plazuela de Iloilo. Students from Iloilo City's high schools, colleges and universities, as well as professionals and health enthusiasts, are expected to attend.
A legal clinic for PWDs scheduled that afternoon will instruct them on where to go and what to do in case they face legal problems. The Women Lawyers Association will be PDAO's partner for this particular activity, said Mabilog.
In Central Visayas, similar activities are being lined up, but Artemia Degamo, PWD focal person of Region VII Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), said that this year they are giving free rein to the different government line agencies to celebrate the PWD Month as they see fit.
Degamo said different line agencies will have a free hand in identifying programs that will benefit the PWD sector as long as the activity is in line with the theme of this year's celebration.
She said the DOLE is planning to conduct a forum to link PWDs with employers and business sector to discuss employment opportunities for the PWD sector. Another government line agency has planned to conduct a medical mission.
Rogelio de Gracia, former president and now vice president of Regional Federation of PWD-VII, announced that the provincial government of Cebu will mark PWD month by hosting the Paralympic Games from July 4 to 8.
De Gracia said the sports activity is slated earlier than the PWD week celebration to give the respective organizations time to celebrate on their own.
He said the Paralympics will showcase the athletic prowess of the PWDs and will include members from rest of the Central Visayas provinces of Bohol, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor. A talent search is also scheduled to showcase their artistic abilities.
"This is a very big event for the PWD because this is regional," de Gracia said.
He said he supports the move of DSWD to diversify the celebration because it is hard to bring them all together in one venue. De Gracia also said that PWDs' needs are different, which is why it would be more beneficial for the celebration to be done by districts or even by small groups.
Planned registrations for NPDR Week have been cancelled following the Commission no Elections' (Comelec) announcement that it will bring its staff and equipment to Mindanao for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) registration.
In Eastern Visayas, the DSWD regional office called on LGUs to hang advocacy streamers, conduct job fairs, free clinics for PWDs, trade fairs and dialogues on issues concerning PWDs.
So far, only 1,800 PWDs have registered with the Comelec. Statistics revealed that there were a total of 853 PWD registrants in Leyte, 325 in Northern Samar, 289 in Southern Leyte, 148 in Samar, 142 in Eastern Samar and 39 in Biliran.
But Amor Mendoza, Comelec Region VIII personnel in charge of PWD registration statistics, said some towns have yet to submit their reports on PWD registration. Comelec 8 data show that as of June 1, nine towns in Northern Samar and three towns in Eastern Samar have not submitted their reports.
The same data show that not a single PWD registered in five Leyte towns, seven Northern Samar towns, six Samar towns, two Southern Leyte towns and nine Eastern Samar towns.
The Comelec held a month-long PWD registration in Eastern Visayas last March, with one week of registration scheduled on pre-identified towns or cities of the region.-- Hazel Villa, Vicente Alejandro and Nestor Ramirez
(VERA Files is a partner of the "Fully Abled Nation" campaign that seeks to increase participation of PWDs in the 2013 elections and other democratic process. Fully Abled Nation is supported by The Asia Foundation and the Australian Agency for International Development. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")