The British Embassy and the New Vois Association of the Philippines (NVAP) today holds a simple ceremonial signing of a partnership that seeks to enhance the economic and political participation of persons with disabilities (PWDs) at the Manila Polo Club, Mc Kinley Road, Makati City.

The project, entitled "Implementation of an Inclusive Development Agenda Anchored on Political Participation and Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities”, aims to raise awareness on Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) and open opportunities wherein they can exercise their economic and political rights.

“The British government is happy to support this project in recognition of the important contribution of persons with disabilities. PWDs’ participation in the political and economic agenda is vital in nation building and in pushing equal opportunities for all sectors”, British Ambassador Asif Ahmad said.

PWDs are one of the most disadvantaged sectors in the Philippines. Based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing, it is estimated that there are about 16 Filipinos with a disability for every 1,000 population. The same census showed that three out of every five PWDs belong to the working age group.

NVAP President Emer Rojas said these numbers might just represent the tip of the iceberg as there is no national registry dedicated to PWDs. The group, comprising of cancer survivors who have lost their sources of livelihood because of their disability, are advocating for the empowerment of all differently-abled people.

“NVAP is grateful to the British government for their confidence and commitment to support Persons with Disabilities in the Philippines. We believe that this project will provide opportunities for PWDs to be part of the social and economic progress and growth of the country. The PWDs can now show that they can be as productive as anyone else,” said Rojas.

Disability can be a cause for one to lose a job or a source of income. The lack of accessible infrastructure and services available for PWDs also limit their movement and clip their ability to harness their full potential. In worst cases, PWDs are neglected or fall prey to abuses.

Rojas said ironically there are enough laws in the Philippines that recognize the importance of PWDs and their potential contribution to the economy but these measures have yet to move forward.

He particularly cited Executive Order 417 signed in 2005 that allocates ten percent of the procurement requirements of government agencies from products and services of PWD whenever available. The EO also supports initiatives that will open equal opportunities for PWDs to engage in business and employment.

“There is still so much to be done to improve the economic conditions and promote the welfare of People with Disabilities. We are glad that the British government is one with us in this endeavour. Together we can move forward and realize the PWD inclusive development agenda of the country,” said Rojas.

“It is important that persons with disabilities are empowered so they can exercise their unique skills and talents and become productive members of society. The British government is always ready to extend a helping hand and be part of the economic development of the country,” Ambassador Ahmad said.