THE Commission on Population and Development (Popcom) marked a new era for the Philippine Population and Development Program by welcoming its 13th executive director in the person of Dr. Lisa Grace S. Bersales.

Expressing her appreciation and delight in joining the agency, Bersales conveyed her goal of steering Popcom in further fulfilling its mandate through the ongoing programs on family planning and reproductive health, adolescent health and development, as well as population and development (Popdev) integration.

“We will look into empirical-based decisions on the PPDP: where to start, and what to prioritize in accordance with the new Philippine Development Plan,” the new Popdev undersecretary said. “Data and statistics will be used as the basis for prioritizing, for focus, and for monitoring successes.”

Beyond the numbers, the former University of the Philippines professor shared her personal quest as she begins her journey with Popcom: that every Filipino family will live decently. This, she said, could be achieved by “putting faces behind population statistics and demography figures.”

“Previously having Popcom as a partner with friends in research, demography and population, I was really struck by the agency’s tagline of ‘Empowering Filipino families and communities,’” the newly installed executive director said. “It was similar to my personal advocacy when I retired from the State University last year.”

Coming from a tightly-knit family background centered on community development, Bersales opened up on her first day in office about trying to empathize with the common folk, especially those struggling in their everyday living. “As a professor of statistics, I would like to go further than the data, and get to know the faces that comprise the numbers. At POPCOM, I will be looking at the Filipino people beyond the numbers, and understand those thriving in difficult situations.”

The undersecretary envisions Popcom as a government agency effecting positive impact to the citizens, notwithstanding the various socioeconomic challenges the nation is currently facing.

For external linkages, Bernales will harness her involvement in global organizations to strengthen the agency’s international collaborations toward advancing POPDEV in the national setting. She has witnessed how international countries and partners help each other achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs.

The new chief of Popcom vowed to build upon the agency’s core value of teamwork not only with its internal human resource, but closely with the local government units, the academe, as well as civil-society and nongovernment organizations, among many other allies, while further enhancing the commission’s strength in research and development.

“My prayer is that Popcom will continue to be a vehicle for Filipino families in experiencing ‘matatag at komportableng buhay,’ or stable and comfortable lives, as a holistic national goal of ‘Ambisyon Natin 2040,’” Bersales said. (PR)