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Rafael M. Salas, was the first head of the United Nations Population Fund from its inception in 1969 up to his death in 1987 (UNFPA). Salas is an alumnus of the University of the Philippines. Prior to accepting the UN post, Salas was Executive Secretary to then President Ferdinand Marcos before a falling out on policies prompted him to leave the administration.


Rafael M. Salas was born in Bago City , Negros Occidental, Philippines in August 7, 1928; one of three children of Ernesto Araneta Salas and Isabel Neri Montinola.

After the turmoil of World War II, Rafael Montinola Salas, went to Manila to continue his education and graduated with high honors in the University of the Philippines in 1950. He completed his B.A. (Magna Cum Laude) and LL.B (Cum Laude) from the U.P. College of Law both in 1953. He then attended Harvard University MPA in 1955. With his decision to stay in the academics and in the University of the Philippines, Manila, he became a lecturer in Economics until 1959 and transferred to the Far Eastern University as professorial lecturer until 1961. He succeeded to improve his status and became Assistant Vice-President back in the University of the Philippines in 1962-63 and as professorial lecturer of Law and a member of the Board of Regents in, 1963-66.

By 1966, Rafael M. Salas, also known affectionately as "Paeng," was called on to serve his country as Executive Secretary of the Republic of the Philippines under President Ferdinand E. Marcos. During his tenure as Executive Secretary, although he had previous governmental assignments, he was credited for having solved the yearly rice production problem of the country as action officer of the National Rice Sufficiency Program.

Due to irreconcilable differences with President Ferdinand E. Marcos, Rafael M. Salas stepped down as Executive Secretary and accepted to be the first Executive Director of the United Nations - Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) in 1969, now known as the United Nations Fund with the rank of Undersecretary General. A position Rafael engaged with efficiency and distinctiveness. (3)

Rafael M. Salas was well respected and beloved by many because he was a leader who was morally upright (3) and his dedication for the advancement for his fellowman with the use of population programs got him the name of "Mr. Population" by the International Community. A quote from "Knowing the Man and the Award" (Commission Population):

"He is widely known as "Mr. Population" in the international population community. He brought together more developed and less developed countries, helping them to become aware of the extent to which they share an interest in population and development." (1)

Through Rafael Montinola Salas' fruitful life, he earned many citations, titles and positions. "For his contribution to the global understanding of population, Salas received 30 honorary degrees, honorary professorships, and academic awards from higher academic institutions in 25 countries." (3)

Rafael M. Salas was not only a great leader, educator, government & international official and attorney, he was also a poet and author. He has also contributed in magazines and newspapers: Past editor of Philippine Law Journal and readings about him in the Chicago Tribune, March 6, 1987, New York Times, March 5, 1987, Times (London), March 6, 1987. (2)

Rafael Montinola Salas died in March 4, 1987, in Washington, DC. from an apparent heart attack. He had served as the first Executive Director the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) from its inception from 1969 until his death in 1987.

Special Citations

In his honor, POPCOM (The Commission on Population of the Philippines) has a yearly prestigious award created under the Rafael M. Salas Foundation in 1990. "The Rafael M. Salas Population and Development Award (RMSPDA) which aims to perpetuate the legacies of "Paeng" by honoring and giving due recognition to local government units, individuals and/or institutions for their outstanding achievement and contributions in the field of population and development; and generate support and participation in the implementation of the population management program." (1) Furthermore, "the RMSPDA recognizes individuals and institutions who continuously pursue the ideals and visions of Rafael M. Salas to achieve a better world for the present and future generations." (1)

There is also the annual "Rafael M. Salas Memorial Speech/Lecture" at UN Headquarters since Rafael M. Salas was the first Executive Director of the UNFPA. The speech series began as a memorial and tribute to Rafael M. Salas. "Under his leadership, the UNFPA grew from a small trust fund to the world’s largest multilateral provider of population assistance." (4) Speakers of this annual memorial lecture have included the former President of the World Bank, Robert McNamara, the-then Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland, former President of the Philippines, Fidel Ramos, Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

The legacy of Rafael Montinola Salas lives on, "It is in time of national difficulties such as we are having now that I think of no other than the great Rafael M. Salas, probably the best President the Philippines never had." - Hern Zenarosa, At Issue (3)

Citations, Titles, Positions of Rafael M. Salas: (2)

- Professorial Lecturer of Economics & Law, 1955-66

- Asst. Vice President of University of Phil. 1962-63 - Member of the Board of Regents, 1966-69

- Executive Secretary of the Republic of the Phils. 1966-69

- Executive Director of the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, 1969-87

- Honorary professor at Universidad Nacional Experimental Simon Rodriguez, 1979

- People's University of China, 1980

- Universidad Autonoma de Santo Domingo, 1981 - Universidad Central del Ecuador, 1982

- Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador, 1982

- Moscow State University, 1982

- United Nations, delegate to the General Assembly, 1968

- Vice-President of International Conference on Human Rights, 1968

- Senior Consultant to Administrator of Development Programme, 1969

- Assistant Secretary General, 1971-72

- Under Secretary General of the United Nations Fund, beginning in 1973

- Coordinator of World Population Year, 1974

- Secretary General of International Conference on Population, 1984.

- Presidential Consultative Council of Students, 1954

- Member of National Economic Council, 1955-61

- Special Assist. to the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources and to the President of the Republic, 1961

- Acting Chair of National Economic Council, 1966 and 1968

- National Coordinator and Action Officer in National Rice and Corn Sufficiency Programme (the "Green Revolution"), 1967-69.

- Special assignments with the government included delegate to UNESCO Conference on media and youth, 1952

- Executive Secretary of UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, 1957

- Assistant Secretary General of Second Asian Productivity Conference, 1960

- Chair of Board of Trustees of Government Service Insurance System, 1966

- Chair of Administrative Code Revision Committee, 1966

- Member of Official Philippine state visit to Japan and Philippine delegation to Manila Summit Conference, both 1966

- "Ambassador Extraordinary" to Indonesia, 1967

- Chair of Presidential School Building Committee, 1967

- Chair of International Tourist Year for the Philippines, 1967

- Member of Board of Governors of Philippine National Red Cross, 1967-69

- Chair of National Committee on Disaster Operations, 1966-69

- Chair of Reorganization Commission, 1968-69

- General manager of Manila Chronicle and assistant to the President of Meralco Securities Corp., both 1963-66.

Honorary degrees include: (2) - D.Humanities from Central Mindanao University, 1969 - Ph.D. from Far Eastern University, 1969

- University of Sarajevo, 1981

- LL.D. from Sri Venkateswara University, 1975

- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1978

- University of Malaya and University of Colombo, 1979 - University of Wales, 1981

- Islamabad Quaid-i-Azam University, 1982

- University of the Philippines, 1983

- D.Soc.Sc. from University of Cairo, 1978 - University of Indonesia, 1981

- D.P.A. from Yonsei University, 1978

- D.Econ. from Nihon University, 1979

- D.H.C. from Universidad Mayor de San Simon and Universidad Nacional Federico Villareal, both 1979

- D.Pol.Sc. from Chulalongkorn University, 1980

- D.Public Service from University of Maryland at College Park, 1980

- George Washington University, 1981

- L.H.D. from American College of Switzerland, 1981

- Management Man of the Year Award from Management Association of the Philippines, 1966

- named Outstanding Management Practitioner of the Year by Management Practitioners Association of the Philippines, 1967

- named Man of the Year by Asia Weekly Examiner, 1967

- Indonesian Order of Mahaputra, 1968

- Knight Grand Cross, first class, of Thailand's Order of the White Elephant, 1968

- Order of the Panglima Mangku Negara of Malaysia, 1968

- named Diplomat of the Year by editorial board of Diplomatic World Bulletin, 1976

- Order of Scientific Merit, first class, from Romania's Academy of Social and Political Sciences, 1980

Books written by Rafael M. Salas: (2) - People: An International Choice; The Multilateral Approach to Population, Pergamon, 1976.

- International Population Assistance: The First Decade; A Look at the Concepts and Policies Which -Have Guided the UNFPA in Its First Ten Years, Pergamon, 1979. - More Than the Grains: Participatory Management in the Philippines Rice Management Program, 1967-1969, Simul Press (Tokyo Press, Japan), 1985.

- Population: Conflict to Census, United Nations Population Fund (New York, NY), 2000.

- Reflections on Population, Pergamon, 1984, 2nd edition, 1985.

- The Far East and Australasia: A Survey and Directory of Asia and the Pacific, Europa, 1981

- The International Who' Who, 50th edition, Europa, 1986.

Poems: (2) - Fifty-Six Stones, Weatherhill, 1985. - Footprints, Weatherhill (New York, NY), 1986.

See also

(1) Knowing the Man and the Award - Commission on Population ( (2) Biography - Salas, Rafael M(ontinola) Contemporary Authors (3) At Issue by Hern Zenarosa "Paeng Salas remembered on 77th birth anniversary" - Manila Bulletin Online ( (4) United Nations Organization. (



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