FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos and SM Prime Holdings Inc. Director Hans T. Sy were the recipients of Autism Society Philippines’s (ASP) advocacy awards at the recent Angels Walk for Autism, an annual event advocating for the acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of Filipinos with autism toward an inclusive society, held on March 3 at SM Mall of Asia.
This year’s gathering celebrated the legacy of leaders that have actively supported and brought forward the discussion of autism awareness in the country for the last three decades, across its 97,000 chapters and to its 13,000 members.
Fidel V. Ramos (FVR), who issued Executive Order 711 of 1996 instituting the commemoration of the National Autism Consciousness Week, was named as the Father of Philippine Autism Advocacy.
“FVR’s leadership opened the doors for government agencies and private institutions to begin the path toward genuine inclusion of persons [with autism],” said Mona Magno-Veluz, ASP national president, “His administration’s disability-inclusive policies put the Philippines ahead of our Asean neighbors in advocating for persons with autism and other invisible disabilities.”
Sy was awarded the inaugural ASP’s Leadership Award for Autism Inclusion and Welfare, one of the highest recognitions that the nonprofit organization gives to an individual.
“Although many are aware of autism, very few people actually understand what it means to live life in the autism spectrum. SM Cares and ASP come together as a community to remind everyone that autism awareness and acceptance should be part of their everyday lives. Awareness is a good thing, but acceptance is far more meaningful,” said Engr. Bien Mateo, senior vice president of SM Supermalls and program director of SM Cares Program on Persons with Disabilities.
ASP also presented the annual ASP Autism Angel Achievement Awards to Samantha Pia Cabanero (for advocacy), Eduardo Enrique Munarriz (for athletics), and
Carlo Gregorio Veluz (for visual arts). Meanwhile, the Autism Works Partners of the Year was awarded to Japanese restaurant Dohtonbori Philippines, and to risk management and consultancy firm Willis Towers Watson, for their commitment to the creation of productive opportunities for jobseekers with autism.
In recent years, the event attracted as much as 24,000 participants from Southeast Asian nations and was echoed in 23 cities across the country.
Studies in Asia, Europe and North America have identified individuals with autism spectrum disorder with an average prevalence of between 1 percent and 2 percent. This conservatively translates to around 1.2 million Filipinos with autism. ASP, extrapolating from data collected from its membership, estimates that only 10 percent of Filipinos with autism are diagnosed and only 5 percent are receiving appropriate intervention.
However, health issues are not the only problems people on the autism spectrum face, as studies suggest that students with disabilities are much more likely to be bullied than their nondisabled peers.
In the Philippines there are several laws such as the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities, Republic Act 10070 and 10336, Equal Opportunity Employment and Anti-Bullying Act, to protect persons with autism.
“For the welfare of a maturing population of Filipinos on the spectrum, care for persons with autism must transition from the confines of the home and school to universities, businesses and workplaces. We hope to inspire awareness, acceptance, accommodation and appreciation of autism in all sectors of Philippine society,” Magno-Veluz said.