By: Tara Yap
PERSONS with disabilities (PWDs) in Western Visayas are urged to empower themselves as means of strengthening government policies and changing social attitude.
Carmen Reyes Zubiaga, director of the National Council on Disability Affairs (NCDA), emphasized during the 1st Regional Congress of PWDs in Iloilo City last July 16 and 17 that PWDS in the region must harness their knowledge of laws to protect their rights and welfare.
Mario Abaygar, vice chairman of Western Visayas Regional Council for Disability Affairs, admitted that PWDs still lack awareness of laws governing them and that has deterred their welfare.
Zubiaga, a PWD herself, reiterated that it is imperative that the more than 80,000 registered PWDs of Western Visayas have to familiarize themselves with major laws such as Republic Act No. 7277 or the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons, Presidential Proclamation No. 157 or the Protection of Children with Down Syndrome, Batas Pambansa Bilang 344 or the Accessibility Law, provisions of the Local Government Code to decentralize assistance to PWDs, Executive Order No. 261 that promotes employment to PWDs, and Executive Order No. 437 that encourages implementation of community-based rehabilitation (CBR) for PWDs.
Likewise, Zubiaga disclosed that government agencies and local government units (LGUs) must also strengthen the implementation of laws to give PWDs the services and benefits accorded to them including budget allocation.
Zubiaga also challenged the region’s PWDs to strengthen their skills and serve their own communities despite of their disabilities.
Approximately 250 PWDs from the provinces of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental gathered at the two-day congress and discussed employment opportunities, health benefits, livelihood training with different government agencies and LGUs.
Meanwhile, the province and city of Iloilo are currently celebrating the 34th National Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation (NDPR) Week with several activities.