May 5, 2006 (OFFICE OF THE PRESS SECRETARY) Saying that Persons With Disability must also enjoy the benefits of the boom in the tourism and information technology sectors, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo unveiled today a P5 million call center scholarship program for the vulnerable sector of society, especially the wheelchair-bound PWDs.

She also ordered newly-installed Presidential Management Staff chief Arthur Yap to organize a jobs fair exclusively for PWDs.

The President issued the order in her keynote speech this morning at the Multi-Stakeholder Conference on the State of Philippine Disability Movement and Challenges at the Bayview Hotel.

"PWDs in the Philippines are our partners in nation-building and they must have full access both to education and economic empowerment," the President said.

The Chief Executive also directed Social Welfare and Development Secretary Esperanza Cabral to coordinate with the Technology and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) to implement the call center scholarship.

The scholarship program and the jobs fair will enable PWDs to avail themselves of the opportunities for education and economic empowerment generated by the advances in the tourism industry and information technology sectors.

The President said the P5 million allocation for the call center scholarship program would be drawn from the P500 million for call center scholarships released earlier to TESDA.

She said that the boom in the tourism and information technology sectors would give greater opportunities for more PWDs to get jobs.

"We must focus on ability rather than on disability…You don’t have to be mobile to be a very good call center operator. You just have to have a very good command of English and if you don’t have that, we have training centers for that," the President said.

She pointed out that the concerns of PWDs must be addressed not only by their families but the whole community as well.

The government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), is mandated to "take special care of the vulnerable sector of society" which includes children, the youth, women, senior citizens and PWDs.

The President said that the capability building program for PWDs is included in the government’s 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippines Development Plan (MTPDP).

"Disabled people are among the poorest of the poor in all parts of the world and the disabled can be chronically poor… that is the sad vicious cycle of disability and poverty which must be broken," she said.

The President said she had declared 2003 to 2012 as the decade for the empowerment of persons with disability so the government and stakeholders would have a decade to work on this goal.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved