BUTUAN CITY – Persons with disabilities (PWDs) started the National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) week celebration on July 17, 2013. The theme of this year’s celebration is “Building an inclusive and non-handicapping environment for persons with disabilities.”

The weeklong celebration started with a thanksgiving mass participated by the PWDs from Butuan City and Bayugan City. In the homily, mass celebrant Rev. Fr. Rex Cassion, emphasized that the message is reminding us that God does not discriminate anybody. He said what makes us disable is not the physical disability but our sins. He urged everyone to change the way they look at the PWDs. “Let us help change the world by changing ourselves first.

In the opening program, Mr. Rico Canales, secretary of Caraga Federation of Persons with Disabilities welcomed the participants and said that the celebration is an evidence to show that people with disabilities are not burdens to their families and society.
Mrs.Angelita B. Amista, division chief of institutional development division (IDD) of DSWD Caraga, pointed out human rights in her message saying that even PWDs have rights. She said government is giving much importance on PWDs through the laws that it passed. She spoke about convergence of efforts from all concerned agencies, non-government organizations and the sector to provide services to PWDs. She exhorted everyone to help develop the potentials and skills of PWDs in order for them to become independent from their families and can stand on their own.

Hon. FerdinandNalcot, chairperson of the social services committee in the Butuan City council appreciated the PWDs for their showing their talents and skills in singing, dancing and playing musical instrument. He saw the need to intensify the effort of pursuing the issues on PWDs and expressed that this activity should not only be done for one week during the NDPR week celebration. He said my vision is to “make this activity a regular thing wherein we can showcase PWD talents, present their issues and their successes.

Another highlight of the celebration is the general assembly of the federation officers of the PWDs from different municipalities and provinces held at the Goat2geder Hotel and Restaurant on July 18-19, 2013.
The gathering was spearheaded by the regional council on disability affairs (RCDA) Caraga region in cooperation with Caraga Federation of Persons with Disabilities (CAFPWDs). The objectives of the activity were the following: 1) to thresh out issues and concerns of the PWDs; 2) continuous engagement with the members of RCDA; 3) clarify issues encountered by the sector in claiming for their rights; 4) to conduct inventory as to the number of LGUs organized and federated PWD organizations and allocated budget for the said sector; 5) to update the sector regarding the programs and services due to them; and (6) PWD related laws, IRRs, MCs and EOs.

The general assembly was attended by DSWD Caraga regional director Minda B. Brigoli. In her message she exhorted the PWD sector to be the one to raise their issues and be heard.

Addressing to the participants,Brigoli said thatthe government through the DSWD and other partner agencies provide to PWDs the opportunity and access. She added thatto do it could be uphill but the force is there. She reminded the participants that “disability is not a hindrance for you to achieve your goals; you can do things that we cannot do. You are part of the decision making because you have the voice and the vote.”

Moreover, a press conference organized by the RCDA through the Philippine Information Agency was held on July 19, 2013 as part of the two-day general assembly of PWDs.

The panel was composed of Ms.Marieta S. Jandayan, NAPC council member; Ms. Aldeberan Mordeno, CSWDO of Butuan City; Ms. Delma Legaspi, DOH representative; Ms. Wilma Geralla, DSWD focal person; Ms. Fe Gomez, TESDA focal person; and Mr.Delfin Antallan, president of Caraga Federation of PWDs.

During the press conference, the PWDs continued their advocacy on accessibility such as express lanes for PWDs, ramps for the newly constructed buildings, creation of Person with Disability Affairs Office, training of athletes for abilympics and paralympics for them to be able to compete with other teams in the said competitions, issuance of PWD identification cards by the local government units and other issues like appropriate words to use such as person with disability and not disable, hearing-impaired and not deaf mute. ###