MANILA - A Filipina advocate for people with autism won the first ASEAN Prize during the opening ceremony of the 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore Tuesday.
Erlinda Uy Koe, chair emeritus of Autism Society Philippines (ASP) and chair of the ASEAN Autism Network (AAN), received a trophy and US$20,000.
The ASEAN Prize, administered by the ASEAN Secretariat, aims to recognize inspiring achievements and contributions of an individual or organization that foster the ASEAN identity, promote the ASEAN spirit, and champion the ASEAN way.
President Rodrigo Duterte said the country is honored by the conferment of the premier award to Koe, "whose work with ASP and ANN has touched the lives of persons with autism and their families across the region."
"As we strive to build a resilient and innovative ASEAN community, we must never forget that ASEAN should continue to be a sharing and caring region," he said.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Koe's award brought pride and honor to the Philippines.
"We cannot be more proud of Ms. Koe and may her exemplary works inspire greater righteousness and dignity in all of us," he said.
Koe was honored for bringing awareness to autism in the Philippines through ASP’s "Angels Walk for Autism 2018," which gathered 24,000 participants and inspired other countries to hold their own event.
In a statement, Koe said she shares the award to some 13,000 members of ASP and other advocates from AAN.
"I am thankful for the momentum this recognition will bring in taking our advocacy to the regional stage. Persons with autism need acceptance, accommodation and appreciation and we hope to find more receptive minds and hearts among our policymakers to build a genuinely autism-friendly global society," she said.