09 May 2014

Crowne Plaza Hotel

Quezon City, Philippines


A Welcome Remarks delivered by Akbayan Rep. Ibarra “Barry” Gutierrez III during the International Forum on Sexuality, Poverty and Law hosted by GALANG Philippines.

Before I proceed with welcoming each one of you, I have to admit that I was surprised when I was asked to give the welcome remarks for this important occasion, with the primary reason that although I have heard a great deal about GALANG and its advocacy, and, in fact, we often find each other on the same side of several contentious issues, we never had the chance to work alongside each other. With today, however, that has obviously changed. So I would like first to express my gratitude to Galang, its officers and staff and to its Founding Director, Ms. Anne Lim, in particular. Thank you for this opportunity and I hope this gestures a closer partnership in the advancement of our common goals.


And in behalf of GALANG, I also wish to acknowledge and welcome to the Philippines our distinguished guests: Stephen Wood and Kate Hawkins from the Institute of Development Studies of UK and Vanina Serra from Mama Cash of The Netherlands whose invaluable support and contributions have made this event possible.


We also acknowledge and welcome to the Philippines our distinguished panelists whose research will provide us today a glimpse of the discourses of social justice in other countries: their struggles and advancement towards inclusive development and how these may be harnessed to enhance our own. To Ms. Tanya Charles from Sonke Gender Justice of South Africa, Li Zhen from Pink Space Sexuality Resource Center of China, Ilana Mountian from the Institute of Psychology of Universidad de Sao Paulo-Brazil and Shruti Arora from Nirantar Center for Gender & Education of India.


Esteemed colleagues in Congress, friends, ladies and gentlemen, in behalf of GALANG Philippines Incorporated, I am honored and pleased to welcome each of you today to this International Forum on Sexuality, Poverty and Law,  in concurrence with the launching of the Philippine policy audit on the sexuality sensitivity content of the country’s social protection policies and how they impact the lesbians, bisexual women and trans men, or the LBT community, who are living in the urban slums.


After decades in which marginalized sexualities didn’t always get the consideration and attention in the discourse of poverty reduction , we mark today a historic occasion as we strive to put the fight against poverty and the issue of sexuality in a common light, signalling a new development in our perspective of poverty. I call this transition, and this transition will be reflected in each groundbreaking country policy audit that will be reported by each of our respected international panelists here.


The issue of inclusive development is one that is not easily ignored in a country where more than 20 million of its population are poor, living under a dollar a day and with none or little access to basic food and shelter and social protection policies. While there are undeniable efforts, even successes, in the government’s anti-poverty programs, we cannot forsake the fact that the number of people being lift out of poverty remains low and slow.


It is our conviction that inclusive development involves not only the strength of a country’s economy, but also a broad-based, and indiscriminate growth that actually reaches people from all walks of life, lifts them out of poverty and develops the whole of our nation. It is, therefore, important to put inclusiveness at the center of every policy debate on growth and development by gleaning insights from the different policy audit reports today and building on them to create better policies and strategies to make inclusive growth a reality for our country.


Of course, we remain cognizant of the possible trade-offs and synergies between  economic growth and inclusive sectoral policies and the proclivity of cities and urban settings to become either a driver of growth or political instability. We also recognize the possibility that other people may consider the issue of marginalized sexuality as overly stretched, even distorted. And, of course, we can’t blame them. With the likes of Ellen De Generes, Vice Ganda, Boy Abunda and Joel Cruz dominating the media, it is easy to generalize that LBTs have things easy. But with this forum, hopefully, we could successfully depict the other face of our LBT communities, those who are poor, living in the urban slums and continuously deprived of full access to social protection policies.


The change in approach in our consideration of sexuality vis-a-vis human rights, education and access to social protection laws is still a long way, though. In the Philippines, we are yet to enact an Anti-Discrimination law, which will fully protect our LGBT community from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI). I already co-authored one of the several House bills, although I also intend to file a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill that will expand the protection of the rights of people against discriminations, regardless of age, race, class, disability, disease and gender. On HIV-AIDS, a consolidated bill that seeks to prevent the spread of the disease, protect the victims from discrimination and ensure that all HIV-AIDS patients are given social protection and medical treatments, regardless of class and gender. It is now pending for approval at the Committee on Health.


With this forum, we hope it could lay a foundation for identifying, designing, and implementing policies and public initiatives that foster strong yet more equitable growth. We hope the results of the workshop will eventually translate into strategic policies that work and are easily implementable.


Again, in behalf of GALANG, we welcome all of you. We thank you, and may you have a very good day!###