DAVAO CITY, May 16 (PIA) – As part of its thrust to uphold the child’s right to have a name and nationality, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) launched a free birth registration program to provide legal identity to all children of its Pantawid Pamilya Pilipino Program beneficiaries.
The program which would run for the month of May would accommodate newborns and late registrants from the 4Ps areas covering 31 municipalities and three cities in the region.
DSWD regional director Ester Versoza said the program aims to address the concern on the number of births and children who are unregistered, citing particularly in remote areas where most of the 4Ps beneficiaries reside.
In a memorandum of agreement, Versoza said the DSWD would undertake the project in partnership with the National Statistics Office and Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).
According to her, DILG has enjoined the Pantawid local government units to accept and waive registration fees for timely and delayed birth registration of 4Ps grantees.
Versoza explained that the free registration program came about following an observation that many potential 4Ps beneficiaries had difficulties presenting birth certificate requirement during registration and validation process.
“We have discovered that many grantees, especially the IPs, don’t have birth certificates,” she stated, pointing the cause to distance, poor road infrastructure and economic barriers.
Versoza also attributed to fear of discrimination in adults, saying “They feel embarrassed to register at their age." She added that unregistered residents were also found in areas where no system was in place.
In 2006, UNICEF stated that 35 percent of births in East Asia and the Pacific is unregistered. The NSO, meanwhile, estimated that about 10–15% of Filipino children born every year are not properly documented.
As provided for in Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, birth registration is a primary right of a child, which is also being espoused in the country’s Millennium Development Goals committing to attain various anti-poverty programs including 4Ps.
“Upholding the fundamental right of a child to bear a name is in line with the MDGs,” Versoza stated, underscoring the need to advocate the importance of birth registration among the 4Ps grantees, especially the IPs.
Birth certificates are part of the legal documents required from the 4Ps beneficiaries as basis for verification of identity and age.
Meanwhile, 4Ps deputy program manager Rebecca Santamaria of DSWD-11 raised a concern that several of the Pantawid recipients could not be declared beneficiaries of the Philippine Health Insurance program for the indigents “because they have no legal documents.”
Seeing this problem, Santamaria stressed a call to articulate the importance of birth registration and to increase the number of registrants, especially of the IPs and other vulnerable sectors.
She said though that implementers of this program are challenged on “how to reach remote areas with the little time given” until end of this month.
Santamaria told the Philippine Information Agency that DSWD is still gathering list of 4Ps beneficiaries with no birth certificates.
She urged the beneficiaries to go directly to their respective Pantawid city or municipal links to have their names listed and for verification process.
At present, 4Ps has 136,825 beneficiaries in 31 municipalities and 3 cities covering 593 barangays in Davao Region. (PIA-11/Carina L. Cayon with reports from DSWD-11/Sheryll Jane Sanico)