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PIA Press Release

Esperon assures UN official RP has program protecting children in conflict-areas

Manila (9 December) -- Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Hermogenes C. Esperon Jr. today assured a ranking official of the United Nations (UN) that the Philippines has put in place an extensive program to protect children in conflict-affected areas in the country.

Esperon told Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative for Children and Armed Conflict of the UN Secretary General, on the various program undertaken by Arroyo administration during a briefing held at the Premiere Guest House in Malacanang.

Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, newly named chairman of the government peace panel that will negotiate with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other ranking officials attended the briefing.

Esperon said that protection of children, especially in conflict-affected areas is not only enshrined in the Philippine Constitution but also in five landmark legislations such as Presidential Decree 603 (Child and Youth Welfare Code); Republic Act 7610 (providing for special protection of children against child abuse, exploitation and discrimination); Republic Act 8371 (Indigenous Peoples Rights Act); Republic Act 9208 (Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act, declaring as unlawful the recruitment, transport or adoption of a child to engage in armed activities in the Philippines and abroad); and Republic Act 9344 (the Juvenile and Welfare Act).

"The government recognizes the need to include child protection in peace processes with rebel groups," Esperon said.

He enumerated the various programs of the government designed to enhance access of Filipino families to basic social and humanitarian services to include child-focused programs.

One is the GOP-UNICEF Sixth Country Programme for Children (2005-2009, which involves provision of basic services for over 20,000 children in 64 conflict-affected barangays; and emergency relief and psychosocial support services for internally displaced persons affected by armed conflict.

Another is the Comprehensive Program on Children Involved in Armed Conflict (CIAC) launched in 2001, to address the CIAC issue and to promote children as zones of peace.

There are 18 government agencies implementing the program.

A program called "Days of Peace Project" is being undertaken under the auspices of the UNICEF that provides basic services for children in conflict areas.

"The first phase of the project involved the provision of essential health services, such as immunization, micronutrient supplementation, de-worming, and breastfeeding counseling," Esperon said.

He said that since the project was launched it has benefited more than 300,000 children and 60,000 mothers in 70 Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) areas.

The second phase expands to Luzon and the Visayas and involves birth registration and distribution of basic school supplies for pupils through the so-called Early Childhood Care and Development Program.

"The Philippines is committed to uphold the high standard of its legal framework and policies for the welfare and protection of children," Esperon said.

The briefing also touched on the peace process undertaken by the government.

For her part, Coomaraswamy said she found the briefing "very interesting" and the "information very useful."

Coomaraswamy and her party will go to Mindanao to find for themselves the ongoing economic development and welfare programs of the government designed to protect children in conflict-affected areas. (PNA) [top]

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