"Our natural resources are disappearing fast, urban pollution and lack of waste management threatens the health of our people, and our increasing population and persistent poverty further strains our environmental resources past its sustainable limits. We need an integrated approach in addressing these problems," said Ramon San Pascual, the executive director of the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development, explaining the need for the Third National Conference on Population, Health, and Environment (PHE).

This year's conference, which will take place March 5-7 in Tagaytay City and is expected to attract at least 300 participants, will focus on ways to expand the geographic reach of PHE projects and integrate additional sectors (e.g., poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, microcredit, and food security) into these programs. Although PHE programs have traditionally focused on family planning, health, and environmental conservation, the PHE model is flexible enough to accommodate a variety of sectors. The guiding principle behind all PHE programs is that integrating multiple sectors brings greater benefits and greater cost-effectiveness than operating separate programs.

"Although we have gained a lot already in terms of implementing integrated population, health and environment programs in the country since the first two conferences [in 2004 and 2006], we must continue to intensify and expand the integrated approach in all settings from urban to rural settings, coastal and upland areas," Conservation International (CI) Executive Director Romeo Troneo told the Manila Sun.Star. CI, the Population Reference Bureau, and the PHE Network, a diverse collection of NGOs and government agencies working on PHE programs, are organizing the conference.

The Philippines conference series was the model for a November 2007 conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which brought together development practitioners to discuss PHE programs in East Africa. Additional information is available in a writeup of the conference's highlights and a post-conference debriefing.