Economic Planning Secretary and
NEDA Director-General

Bayview Park Hotel, Roxas Blvd, Manila City
30 April 2014

Fellow workers from the national government agencies, colleagues from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), LGUs, civil society, academe, and non-government organizations; ladies and gentlemen, good afternoon.

It is an honor to join you today for the Preliminary Report Dissemination Forum on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey. The NDHS is a crucial data source that effectively guides government initiatives for improved and inclusive health systems in the country. Particularly, it aids public officials in policy formulations, program planning, monitoring, evaluation, and decision making.

With the report that will be presented before us today, we will see how far we have gone in achieving the necessary health reforms that we have envisioned in the previous years, and the challenges which we will strive to address in the following years. For one, we remain challenged by our country’s high fertility rate. Unfortunately, this is also tied with the increasing number of pregnancy-related deaths. Based on the 2011 Family Health Survey (FHS), our maternal mortality ratio (MMR) increased to 221 per 100,000 live births from 162 in 2006. The challenge is to bring down this ratio to 50 per 100,000 live births by 2016. These reflect the urgency to aggressively implement reforms in the health sector in order to ensure equitable access to quality health care.

Anyway, probably, it has not escaped you, the news that came out this morning, the results of the poverty survey. It is derived from a national representative sample. We found, as reported by PSA that the proportion of families who are poor went from 22.3 percent in the first semester of 2012 to 19.1 percent in the same period in 2013. The survey was done in July 2013. Our commitment is to reduce poverty statistics at the national level so we can effectively adjust strategies for poverty reduction.

The 2013 NDHS preliminary report consists of comprehensive information on health indicators and population behavior, and this makes possible the development of more informed policy decisions and reforms. The government will implement more focused programs and projects in line with the objectives of the Philippine Development Plan or PDP Midterm Update. Specifically, the survey results will aid in our advocacy for responsible parenthood and family planning. It will also provide significant inputs for the improvement of the Kalusugan Pangkalahatan or the government’s Universal Health Care Program, especially in closing the huge gap between the current and the targeted maternal mortality ratio.

While challenges remain, there is room to celebrate the developments that we have achieved in the health sector. As some of you may have read in the papers, the 2013 preliminary report of the NDHS shows that there has been an improvement in health care delivery in the country, particularly with the increase in facility-based deliveries and in births delivered by health professionals.

More of these preliminary findings will be discussed in this forum, including important population and health indicators that are useful in the design, monitoring and evaluation of government policies and programs. These indicators also serve as useful tools in monitoring the country’s performance in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, concerning under-five mortality and children’s vaccination coverage.

While the results are preliminary, we expect that the final figures will not differ substantially. A final and more comprehensive 2013 NDHS report will be published in the last quarter of the year.

Of course this project would not have been possible without the cooperation of various government agencies and organizations. For this, I would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations that supported the Philippine Statistics Authority in this initiative:

Dr. Mercedes Concepcion and other members of the steering committee from the Department of Health;
University of the Philippines Population Institute;
Commission on Population;
Philippine Statistics Authority;
National Institutes of Health;
UP School of Economics;
Food and Nutrition Research Institute;
Philippine Commission on Women;
Department of Social Welfare and Development;
Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development or PLCPD;
Professional Managers Inc.; and
ICF International, through the MEASURE DHS program of USAID, for their work and assistance in strengthening the Philippine government’s thrust for social development.

Building on our gains from recent initiatives and developments in the population and health sector, I encourage everyone to take this opportunity to exchange views and ideas for the further improvement of our health systems and in addressing issues on population behavior toward health. Let us use the preliminary results of the 2013 NDHS to blaze the path for inclusive growth. I wish you a fruitful forum ahead.

Thank you very much.