MANILA - The National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA) on Wednesday revealed that almost 50 percent of the over 1,700 local government units (LGUs) across the country have no existing office or focal person that caters to the needs of persons with disabilities (PWDs).
"As of today, there are 738 Persons with Disability Affairs Office (PDAO) monitored nationwide. This is 43 percent of the total number of LGUs. Of this number, 436 are PDAO Office and 302 are focal persons," the NCDA said.
The establishment of PDAOs in provinces, cities, and municipalities is mandated by Republic Act 10070 to ensure that Filipino PWDs have access to government programs and services.
In consideration of budget restraints, local chief executives of fourth, fifth, and sixth class municipalities may designate a focal person in lieu of the creation of a PDAO.
"PDAOs bring the government closer to the PWDs. They are the ones who represent us in meetings, which just makes sense because we should also be part of the development," Miriam Acosta-Llanos, the national president of the League of PWD Affairs Officers of the Philippines (LPDAOP), told the Philippine News Agency.
"The PDAO is the one that finds ways to reach out to the PWD when that person cannot access government programs and services," she added.
There are at least 1.44 million PWDs in the country, based on the Philippine Statistics Authority's 2010 Census of Population and Housing.
Acosta-Llanos, who believes the number may have already ballooned to 5 million, said this outdated statistic and absence of a comprehensive database highlights the pressing need to create PDAOs.
"We still have a long way to go. That's the challenge, updating the database and implementing (Republic Act 10070)," she said.
"Malaki ang epekto kung walang PDAO sa isang lugar dahil walang makikipaglaban sa karapatan namin at walang mag-a-advocate ng kailangan namin (The absence of a PDAO has a big impact because they're supposed to be the one to advance our interest and fight for our rights). Only a PWD knows what we need and what we feel," she added.
LPDAOP was established in the last quarter of 2020 with the support and guidance of the NCDA.
At present, LPDAOP is in coordination with the NCDA to provide technical support to the existing local PDAOs. Among NCDA's thrusts is the capacity building of PDAOs through logistical support and facilitation of training. (PNA)