October 17, 2018

MANILA – Programs on human capital development, specifically Early Childhood Development, are important to address poverty in the country, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said

“A human being’s development starts at pregnancy when the mother starts to care for her child at the fetal stage. This is why we need to guarantee care at all life stages,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said during the Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank (WB) last week in Bali, Indonesia.

“We need to make sure mothers receive adequate nutrition to ensure their children’s optimum physical and mental development as they prepare for schooling,” he added.

Pernia represented the country at the Human Capital Project Early Adopters Ministerial Roundtable and a closed-door meeting with WB President Jim Yong Kim on human capital development.

He also represented the Philippines at the ASEAN Ministerial Roundtable on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Pernia said two concerns are closely being monitored by the government: stunting and wasting.

Stunting is when a child is small for his or her age because of an inadequate diet. Wasting, on the other hand, refers to active malnutrition characterized by very low weight-to-height ratio. This is a result of deficits in both muscle tissue and fat mass.

He added that, among Filipino children under 5 years old, stunting as of 2015 stands at 33 percent, and wasting at 7.1 percent.

“The government is committed to working towards achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth. This should be done not only through developing physical infrastructure, but more importantly through investing in our people on education, health, nutrition, social protection, and jobs,” he said.

Pernia added Chapter 10 of the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 titled Accelerating Human Capital Development lays down strategies on human capital, including strengthening programs on early childhood care and development.

A few of these are providing quality nutrition and health care through the National Immunization Program as well as the Family Health, Nutrition, and Responsible Parenting Program. The PDP also identifies programs that upgrade and equip health facilities.

“More importantly, our RH Program will capacitate poor couples, especially women, to do away with unwanted pregnancies. This way, they can focus their limited resources on better health, nutrition, and education for their children,” Pernia said.

The World Bank recently reported that the Philippines’ Human Capital Index, or HCI, stood at 0.55 in 2017, from 0.49 in 2012. This ranks the country 84th out of 157 economies.

“While this is lower than the average in the East Asia and Pacific region, it is higher than the average for our income group. Nonetheless, we recognize the challenges and remain committed to addressing these,” Pernia said.

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