The Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), in partnership with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), launches the biography of Mr. Rafael M. Salas. “Mr. Population” – as he was affectionately known - was one of the first Filipino advocates who made the crucial links between population and development and sexual and reproductive health and rights, globally and in the Philippines.
“Parents have a basic human right to determine freely and responsibly the number and the spacing of their children,” he said in 1968 - a truly novel statement for the time. Entitled “A Millennial Man for Others: The Life and Times of Rafael M. Salas”, the book chronicles his life from his childhood days, and his achievements until his untimely death in 1987.
Had Mr. Salas been alive today, it would have warmed his heart to see that the fruits of his efforts have finally become more evident with the passage of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act and the commitment of the present administration to reproductive health and family planning as evidenced by the revamped National Program on Population and Family Planning and the President’s Executive Order to end unmet need for family planning.
Undersecretary and Executive Director of the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) said that “POPCOM has been constantly bringing into the consciousness of the Local Government Units (LGUs) and the Filipino people alike the seeds of development work that Mr. Salas planted when he drafted the Executive Order (EO) that would create POPCOM in 1969. In step with the new millennium, POPCOM will soon launch the “Kaunlarang Pantao” Award, using Paeng Salas’ inspiration of development for the people. “
Mr. Salas was also the first Executive Director of UNFPA. He oversaw the birth of the organization in 1969, nurtured it with care, and imbued it with his foresight and vision. Under his leadership, the agency grew from a relatively small body to the world’s largest provider of multilateral development assistance on population dynamics through the prism of sexual and reproductive health and rights and gender equality. As UNFPA Executive Director, Mr. Salas carried the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, the highest UN office accorded to a Filipino even up to today.
“It is an honor for us to carry on Rafael Salas’ legacy at UNFPA in this historic 50th anniversary year of UNFPA and the 25th anniversary year of the landmark International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), where Mr. Salas’ vision became a global consensus when 179 governments including the Philippines agreed on a call for all people to have access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including voluntary family planning, and safe pregnancy and childbirth services,” said UNFPA Representative in the Philippines, Iori Kato.
Mr. Salas’ legacy continues to this day. Later this year in November, the Governments of Kenya, Denmark and UNFPA are convening a global summit in Nairobi to mark the 25th anniversary of the ICPD, for Member States to express their renewed political and financial commitments towards the promises that they had made in Cairo 25 years ago to support women empowerment through three transformative results: ending unmet need for family planning, ending preventable maternal deaths and ending gender-based violence.
The book launch marks the 91st birth year anniversary of Mr. Salas and is a venue to continue his legacy as national influential figures in Philippine government, business and civil society gather and take the opportunity to articulate the country’s commitment to Nairobi.
The event will also feature a photo exhibit at the Department of Foreign Affairs, with Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary, of the NEDA, giving the opening statement, followed by a panel discussion on the life of Mr. Salas with Dr. Mercedes Concepcion, and the authors of the book: Mr. Jose Dalisay and Ms. Menchu Sarmiento. Sec. Ernesto Pernia will turn over the book to Mrs. Carmelita Rodriguez Salas who will give a statement.