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President Benigno Aquino III on Monday vowed to continue to work on providing improved health services and universal health care especially for the poor, as the World Health Organization (WHO) honored him for his outstanding leadership in health.
The WHO cited the President for pursuing heath policies and programs to the benefit of the people. "It is fitting that we celebrate World Health Day by recognizing President Aquino's exemplary leadership in public health," said WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific Shin Young-soo.
The WHO official cited President Aquino’s push for the sin tax reform measure and reproductive health law, among others. "Among his most significant accomplishments have been raising taxes on tobacco and alcohol, and giving vulnerable Filipinos access to health insurance and to reproductive health care," he said.
"He (Aquino) truly embodies the principle from which WHO derives so much of its direction and inspiration: that the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is a fundamental right," he noted.
President Aquino said he is accepting recognition "with deep gratitude, knowing full well that it recognizes not the triumph of a single man against seemingly insurmountable odds, but the strength of a people willing and eager and fervently working towards change. It is an affirmation of an entire philosophy; an appreciation of the shifting culture of governance in the Philippines. The laws we were able to pass, the reforms we are seeing in the healthcare sector -- all of these emanate from our staunch resolve to reinstitute integrity in government service."
The President said he believes that every Filipino life, every human life, "holds equal value." "I believe that there is something inherently unjust when a child growing up in Baseco cannot enjoy the same opportunity to live a productive, healthy life, as those of us here in this conference hall. I believe that four out of 10 Filipinos who die without ever encountering a healthcare professional in their lifetime is a number that is simply too high. Proper nutrition, proper access to healthcare, and an opportunity to build a dignified life -- these should not be reserved only for those who have the means to pay for it," he said.
"If we are to build a true regime of opportunities, then the most fundamental freedoms -- the freedom from hunger, as my father said; the freedom from unease afforded us by a secure nation; or the freedom to actively participate in our democracy -- these must all be extended to every citizen, regardless of the circumstances of their birth," he noted.
President Aquino is confident that in the future, "we will be seeing as an everyday reality the fruits of the change we are striving to achieve today."