Speech of President Aquino at the Children’s Hour Annual Benefit Lunch

His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
At the Children’s Hour Annual Benefit Lunch
[December 8, 2010, A-Venue Hall, Makati City]
First of all, I would like to thank the Children’s Hour Philippines and its partner institutions for the invitation. It is a pleasure to be part of this Annual Benefit Lunch as you celebrate a triumphant decade of helping the Filipino children. For the past ten years, you have offered individuals and companies a simple yet effective way to help less privileged Filipino children: by sharing an hour’s worth of their earnings once every year. Thank you for capitalizing on the inherent goodness of our people.

My mother was a staunch supporter of the Children’s Hour, having served as your Honorary Chair during your program’s re-launch in 2002. She would have been happy to see the unity you have shown here today in the service of the less fortunate children of our country. My sister Ballsy has since continued our mother’s advocacy. Rest assured that Children’s Hour and its many worthwhile endeavors will continue to enjoy the support not just of my family but also of our administration.
Your dedication and commitment to service is evident in your many achievements. As of June 2010, Children’s Hour has raised more than 200 million pesos in cash donations and has funded more than 545 projects nationwide that have benefited almost 620,000 children. We welcome your efforts to expand coverage by supporting more projects in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. This will help address the plight of underprivileged Filipino children, whose limited access to their fundamental needs have led to many wasted opportunities for our country’s growth.
According to the Early Childhood Care and Development Council, half of a person’s ability to learn is developed in the first four years of life. It is during these early years when the learning pathways to the brain are formed. This is the reason why children who do not undergo preschool education are the ones who are likely to drop out within the first three grades of primary education. The foundation, which all future learning is based on, is developed in these critical years, yet this phase of development is not adequately prioritized in our current education system.
In addition, poor health and nutrition of school children is a persistent challenge. Undernourished children are likely to drop out of school simply because they are unable to cope with the demands of schoolwork.
Proper prevention and intervention strategies in early childhood can address these. According to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, implementing early child care and development programs and the establishment of day care centers are effective in preventing personal, social, and educational difficulties during middle childhood and adolescence. My administration supports this. There is no other way to effectively solve our lingering problem in education than to address the root cause of that problem through early child care and development. It will also support our efforts to achieve universal primary education, one of the Millennium Development Goals we are expected to accomplish by 2015.
As a response, we have increased the budget of the Department of Education by 16% for the coming fiscal year.  The increase amounts to 31 billion pesos in order to address the resource gaps such as shortages in teachers, classrooms, textbooks, and water and sanitation facilities. A closer look at next year’s budget for education shows the administration’s focus on primary and secondary education. It is here where the foundations for higher learning are built, which is why we have prioritized these areas.
While we are on the topic, may I just add that contrary to what you may have read in the papers, or seen in the news, the budget for state universities and colleges has not been cut. It has actually been increased by about 11%. You don’t have to take my word for it. You can check the budget yourself, which is published on the DBM website.
We have also strengthened the Conditional Cash Transfer program by increasing its 2011 budget to 21 billion pesos. This aims to empower the poorest families by giving them stipends and food if they meet certain conditions, such as sending their children to school regularly, or getting their babies vaccinated. It is not easy to implement, but it has already shown proof that it definitely works. To effectively implement this, DSWD is reaching out to indigent families through the National Household Targeting System. These reforms are being pushed to put an end to the most debilitating social conditions that we face today.
Children’s Hour’s advocacies and programs are consistent with what we are doing. I urge you, therefore, to continue with your meaningful endeavors that have already significantly improved the lot of our people. But may I also ask you to see what you can do for children also in the preschool levels. Even as my administration focuses on primary and secondary education, our children need help even before they enter grade school.
To Children’s Hour Philippines and to all its benefactors: donating at least an hour’s worth of your salaries and earnings may seem so little, yet it has already made a big difference in the lives of Filipinos this past decade. I am grateful that you have chosen to tread the straight path with us, the path that leads to human development and, ultimately, to national progress. Thank you for making the world a better place, one hour at a time.
We have come a long way. The darkness that once put us in such despair is waning. Our country is enjoying the daylight – where the government finally serves its people with transparency and accountability. No midnight deals, no under-the-table contracts. With your cooperation, we will continue to overcome the challenges that we face and we will move forward towards progress. Children’s Hour is our partner in this road to transformation, which is committed to build a strong nation for the sake of our children and the children of generations yet to come.
Once again, thank you and congratulations. Mabuhay po tayong lahat.