Budget for NACC assured

Manifestation on the DSWD budget

Thank you, Mr. President, I would also like to thank the Deputy Minority Floor Leader for allowing me to take the floor and just make this very short manifestation.

Good evening, Secretary and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) team here. A short manifestation, I would like to thank the DSWD Sec. for pursuing what we discussed in the hearing on the allocation of the budget of NACC (National Authority on Child Care), which was lodged with DSWD.

Salamat kasi matutupad naman nila [NACC] ang kanilang mandato. And although still attached to [DSWD], I expect Mr. Secretary that your team will be able to give them your full support, kasi ‘baby agency’ pa lang naman yan di ba? So it is only natural hindi ho ba na alagaan din kung ano ang magagawa dahil there’s much that we can achieve through this attached agency by way of finding homes for children in need, not just permanent homes by way of adoption, but temporary homes by way of foster care.

So yun lang, Madame Chair, yung iba madali naman ma-discuss, the Sec. has given his commitment that he will work with us. On that note, we thank the Sec. and his team, and the Chairperson. Thank you, Mr. President. #

Related story: Pia backs funding for alternative child care https://piacayetano.ph/pia-backs-funding-for-alternative-child-care/

 

Pia: It’s high time we strengthen the law to end child rape

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Monday welcomed the approval on third and final reading of Senate Bill No. 2332, which seeks to amend the Anti-Rape Law to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from the current 12 years old to 16.

“This amendment is long overdue. It’s high time we strengthen the law to end child rape,” said the senator, who is a co-sponsor of the measure.

At the same time, Cayetano lauded the inclusion of the so-called ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘close-in-age’ clause in the approved bill, which will protect the rights of young people who get involved in consensual and non-abusive sexual relations.

“The Romeo and Juliet clause is integral to the bill.” Quoting a statement from the Child Rights Network, the senator explained that the Romeo and Juliet clause “ensures that the law on statutory rape does not criminalize consensual and non-abusive sex between people close in age. This protects young people from being labeled as sex offenders” if they do have consensual sex with their peers.  This position is also supported by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and backed by various civil society groups. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Senator Pia S. Cayetano lauds the passage of SBN 2332, which amends the Anti-Rape Law to raise the minimum age of sexual consent from 12 years old to 16.

Don’t forget PE classes under ‘new normal’ curriculum

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the inclusion of Physical Education (PE) among the classes to be offered under the Department of Education’s (DepEd) proposed blended learning modalities for the ‘new normal.’

“Physical well being is something we cannot simply set aside, especially in this time of COVID-19. We need to keep promoting physical education and regular exercise among our children,” Cayetano said.

The senator made the statement on Thursday (May 14) at the virtual hearing of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s education system.

During the hearing, Cayetano urged DepEd officials to come up with innovative ways to ensure that PE subjects will continue to be taught to students and tailored for different grade levels.

The senator pointed out that various media platforms, including television and the internet, can be used as tools for this purpose, being key components of blended learning. She added that students need not leave their homes to be encouraged to exercise.

She suggested educational programs that promote regular exercise among children, as this could lead to many health benefits and potentially prevent respiratory illnesses.

“Physical education does not have to take up too much space. Government channels can easily air these kinds of shows for students. There are many things that can be done. What matters is we do not disregard PE, and the need to teach our children the importance of taking care of their health while at home,” she added.

DepEd, for its part, informed the Senate panel that it is in the process of coordinating with private sector partners in preparing downloadable videos that teach kids how to learn certain sports and other physical skills.

Meanwhile, Cayetano also pressed DepEd to fast-track its plan to seek assistance from the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in using government-run television and radio stations as platforms for delivering lessons during the pandemic.

Tapping state-run channels, including PTV 4, to air educational shows for children was among the recommendations that the senator forwarded to the executive department following the President’s weekly reports to Congress.

Cayetano said that she has repeatedly cited in the Senate’s weekly comments the need to use government TV stations to air educational shows. “The concerned agencies should be coordinating with each other about that by now… Can we get a follow up on that?” she asked DepEd, adding that the agency should take charge of deciding which types of programs PCOO would air in their channels.

“We need to secure the best content for our students. There are many materials out there. But just like textbooks, these need to be filtered. In fact, my suggestions were very detailed to the effect that you have time slots for different age groups: from preschool- to college-level programs,” she noted.

DepEd then assured the panel that it is now finalizing specific strategies to make this proposal possible, including converting educational materials into scripts for TV- and radio-based instructions.

Finally, Cayetano reiterated the need to adopt a Futures Thinking approach in addressing the challenges in basic education, following the disruption caused by COVID-19.

“We have to look into [all possible] futures. This really requires long-term planning, and it never happens at the level that we are discussing it if we are always in the now. That is precisely why I funded the Futures Thinking division in DepEd so that we can plan in this way,” said Cayetano, who chairs the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

“This is not just for June. This is not for the opening of classes, this is for the long-term quality of our children’s education,” she added. #

Cayetano urged DepEd officials to come up with innovative ways to ensure that PE subjects will continue to be taught to students and tailored for different grade levels.

 

50 liters of breast milk from Taguig moms delivered to Batangas evacuation centers

The office of Senator Pia S. Cayetano and the Taguig city government formally turned over on Friday (Jan. 31) 50 liters of breast milk to the Batangas Medical Center (BATMC) for the benefit of babies affected by the Taal volcano eruption.

The milk donation was received by officials of BATC, which houses a human milk bank that stores breast milk for babies in need, including those staying in different evacuation centers across the province.

All 50.1 liters of breast milk donations were gathered and collected from nursing mothers who participated in “Breast Milk Ko, Alay Ko,” a breast milk letting event organized last January 23 by the senator’s office in partnership with Taguig city.

The donated milk underwent tests and pasteurization at the Taguig City Human Milk Bank of the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital before being delivered to Batangas.

“Nobody can dispute that breast milk is best for babies. But what do you do when, for some reason, a mother cannot provide this for her child? During a state of stress, a mother’s ability to produce milk could be affected,” Cayetano said as she stressed the importance of breast milk donations for Taal evacuees.

“That’s why we organized the breast milk letting event, because during this time of calamity, we don’t want our babies to stop receiving breast milk. And we thank all the moms who made this possible through their donations. Maraming salamat po sa inyo at huwag po tayong magsawang tumulong,” the senator added.

Cayetano meanwhile stated that the work does not end with today’s ceremony, as she urged more nursing mothers to continue helping fellow moms in need by donating their milk through the TPDH Human Milk Bank.

A breastfeeding advocate, the senator authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Act (Republic Act 10028), which encourages health institutions to establish human milk banks.

Cayetano also authored the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act  (RA 10821), which requires breastfeeding areas to be set up in evacuation centers to enable mothers to feed their babies in private.#

50 liters of breast milk arrive at the Batangas Medical Center in Batangas City. BATMC officials led by Chief of Hospitals Dr. Ramoncito Magnaye welcomed the team from Taguig City and the Office of Senator Pia Cayetano.
Official turnover to the Batangas Human Milk Bank of 50 liters of breast milk donated by volunteer-moms from Taguig City. The Batangas Human Milk Bank supplies breast milk for babies in need at evacuation centers across the province.
Courtesy call to Governor Dodo Mandanas of Batangas province.

 

Donated milk helps nourish children in evacuation centers like Clarck, 8 months old, whose mother Camille Austria, 20, has had difficulty expressing milk after their family was displaced by the Taal eruption.
Interested parties could still donate for babies in need of breast milk through the Taguig Human Milk Bank at the Taguig-Pateros District Hospital.

As polio returns, Pia presses intensified info drive on vaccination

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is strongly urging health officials to step up their efforts in convincing Filipino mothers to have their kids vaccinated, following the health department’s declaration of a polio epidemic in the country.

The principal author and sponsor of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act (RA 10152), Cayetano expressed  alarm that the Philippines has lost its polio-free status.

The senator made the call after the Department of Health (DOH) reported that a 3-year-old girl from Lanao del Sur was recently diagnosed with polio, marking the return of the dreaded illness to the country after two decades. 

Exactly a month ago (August 19), Cayetano delivered a privilege speech in the Senate to call attention to  the risks brought about by the country’s deteriorating vaccination rates, particularly for the poliovirus. 

In her speech, she said if mothers continue to refuse having their children immunized, the spread of the virus could just be “a snap of a finger away.”

“Since the year 2000, we have already been declared polio-free. My children grew up at a time where there was no more polio. After 19 years, it’s so sad that this (disease) may actually come back,” she stressed.

“All these diseases have already been eradicated or are close to being eradicated because we’ve had a successful vaccination program throughout the decades. But now, mothers are suddenly not bringing their children to the health centers to be vaccinated,” she added.

As early as the 2019 campaign period, the senator has been going around the country reminding health workers on the ground to educate mothers about the importance of vaccination. 

“Because of the (dengue vaccine) scare, ang conclusion ng mga nanay ay masama na ang lahat ng bakuna. But time and again, we kept on repeating that this is not true,” she said.

Cayetano called upon the DOH and local government officials to conduct more enticing information drives to keep promoting the government’s immunization program.

“As public servants, we are tasked to ensure that the welfare and health of our children are properly protected. So if we need to shake things up a bit, I think we really should,” she said, reiterating her call a month ago.

“We deprive the life of these children – a life that could be spent climbing trees, playing sports, or enjoying other physical activities – if we let their mothers disregard the importance of vaccination,” she added.#

A month ago, Cayetano delivered a privilege speech in the Senate to call attention to  the risks brought about by the country’s deteriorating vaccination rates, particularly for the poliovirus. 
Cayetano called upon the DOH and local government officials to conduct more enticing information drives to keep promoting the government’s immunization program.

Pia wants ‘alcopops’ pulled out of store shelves

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has called the attention of distributors and sellers of flavored alcoholic drinks called “alcopops” for using unethical and illegal marketing schemes to entice young Filipinos to buy their products. 
Alcopops are flavored alcoholic beverages, a variety of which is packed in colorful foil pouches similar to juice beverages.
“I was very bothered when I found out about it. It’s packaged in a very colorful packaging that is very attractive to kids,” Cayetano stressed during the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s organizational meeting on Thursday (August 15).
During the hearing, the Department of Finance (DOF) presented an overview of the remaining tax packages under the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), among which is the proposed increase in the excise tax on alcohol products.
“I accepted the chairmanship of the Committee on Ways and Means precisely to be able to see through the delivery of public services that I’ve always dedicated my time and energy [to],” said Cayetano, who chairs the panel. 
The senator particularly expressed concern over the increasing consumption of alcopops among Filipinos. DOF figures show that Filipinos spent P69 million for alcopops in 2018, more than twice higher than the P30 million consumed in 2017. 
A particular brand of alcopops is currently being sold at P25 per 200 ml pack and has an alcohol content of 7 percent. Under the current tax rates, its total excise tax is only P1.30 per pack.  The DOF is proposing to increase its tax rate to P8.00 per pack. 
Cayetano for her part decried the easy access of young children to the alcoholic drinks, which are being sold alongside regular non-alcoholic drinks in groceries and even online. Apart from this, the colorful packaging also makes it appealing to minors. 
As such, the senator called for the products to be pulled out of store counters and for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate the packaging, distribution, and sale of such alcoholic mix beverages. 
“We’re trying to sell a product that has 7 percent alcohol and is packaged to make it very attractive to children. It is unethical and unlawful,” she said. 
“Nananawagan ako sa mga matitino at maaayos na businessmen. Siguro naman sa sarili niyong anak, hindi niyo ipapainom ‘yan,” she further stressed.
The senator, who earlier fought for the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act of 2012, noted that a similar issue was raised in the Senate about how the marketing schemes of certain tobacco companies enticed the youth to try cigarettes. #

Cayetano decried the easy access of young children to alcopops, which are being sold alongside regular non-alcoholic drinks in groceries and even online.

Pia backs better health promotion vs outbreaks

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Wednesday (August 7) urged the health department to take advantage of available resources to strengthen its information drive on the importance of government’s expanded program on immunization (EPI).

The senator said this during the first public hearing of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, and amid the Department of Health’s (DOH) declaration of a national dengue epidemic in the country. 

Cayetano lamented that the recent outbreak of diseases in the country was caused by the decline in people’s confidence in vaccines. 

“I had the opportunity to talk to barangay health workers all over the country. And the biggest problem [they mentioned] is that the mothers were scared. [They] refused to have their children vaccinated with measles and many other vaccines because of the [Dengvaxia scare],” she said.

The principal author and sponsor of the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act (RA 10152), Cayetano stressed the need to properly inform Filipino families about the importance of vaccination in saving their children’s lives. 

To help restore people’s trust in vaccines, she urged the DOH and other concerned agencies to find more creative and aggressive ways in promoting the government’s immunization program. 

“We have a budget through the Sin Tax Reform Law (RA 10351), which we passed years ago for health promotion. I may not have seen it, but I would like to see really exciting and engaging infomercials, cartoons, or even dramas, that would help mothers appreciate the importance of vaccination,” Cayetano said.

“We passed the law precisely because we wanted to ensure that the budget moving forward would include [sufficient funds] for vaccinations… The budget for health promotions is there, let’s really make this engaging,” she added.

‘Improving children’s health increases chances vs dengue, other ailments’

Meanwhile, Cayetano said another critical part of preventing outbreaks like dengue fever in the country is for the government to improve Filipino children’s health and nutrition.

“At the end of the day it is the immune system [that needs to be strong]. The first thing we can do is to make sure our children are healthy enough,” the senator said. 

The DOH pointed out during the committee hearing that one in three Filipino children remains stunted. The department said this figure has not improved in the last 15 years.

“To bring up the level of health of every child is the first thing we can do to help them fight the [dengue] battle. That is our long-term solution. We can’t wipe out dengue in a day or in a year. But we can make our children healthier with more resources,” Cayetano stressed.

The senator then called for a strengthened implementation of the government’s programs on children’s health and nutrition, which she said also forms part of the country’s commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all. 

The DOH for its part reminded the public to follow the “4S strategy” against dengue, which stands for “search and destroy” mosquito-breeding sites, “self-protection measures” like wearing covered clothes and using mosquito repellent, “seek early consultation”, and “support fogging/spraying” in hotspot areas. #

Senator Pia Cayetano: We can’t wipe out dengue in a day or in a year. But we can protect our children with more resources poured into health promotion.

Pia lauds signing of National Vision Screening Law

Senator Pia S. Cayetano on Sunday welcomed the passage of a law establishing a national vision screening program for kindergarten pupils, as she stressed that early treatment of eye problems will lead to better learning among the youth and a sustainable future for the country.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed Republic Act 11358 or the ‘National Vision Screening Act,’ which seeks to establish a National Vision Screening Program (NVSP) under the Department of Education. 

“I thank the President for signing this relevant measure, which came just in time for Sight Saving Month,” said Cayetano.

The senator first authored and sponsored the bill in the Senate during the 16th Congress and re-filed the same measure in the House in the 17th Congress. The latter became the base bill for the law signed by the President. 

Cayetano said RA 11358 can help fulfill government’s commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly Goals 3 and 4 of the SDGs.

Goal 3 calls on nations to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, including the provision of essential services based on tracer interventions, like vision screening. 

Goal 4, on the other hand, urges nations to promote lifelong learning opportunities for all. This includes initiatives to put the development of young children on track in health, learning, and psychosocial well-being.

“Good vision is vital for our children’s learning,” Cayetano said, emphasizing how the law’s objectives and the two SDGs are interrelated. 

She said poor vision at childhood greatly affects a student’s performance in school, and so “ensuring the full well-being of our children is the first step to enable them to reach their full potential and grow up as productive members of society.” 

Prior to the law’s passage, Cayetano has already spearheaded a pilot vision screening test for kindergarten pupils in Taguig City in 2016. The vision-screening was conducted in partnership with the Taguig city government and the UP Manila Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI). 

One hundred fifty (150) pupils aged five to six at the EM’s Signal Village Elementary School underwent a simple vision-screening test, about 15 of whom were found to have vision problems and in turn received immediate and proper treatment. #

Senator PIa Cayetano leads a reading session for pre-school children and their mothers in Brgy. Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. (file photo)
Senator Pia Cayetano with young children at an evacuation center in Quezon City. (file photo)

Pia seeks a loving, caring home for all abandoned, neglected kids

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed a measure to codify the country’s laws on alternative child care with the goal of simplifying the process of giving abandoned and neglected children a second chance at having a loving and caring family.

Senate Bill No. 61 or the ‘Alternative Child Care Code of the Philippines’ was among the first ten priority bills that the returning senator filed during her first week in the Senate as part of her long-term advocacy to promote children’s rights and welfare. 

Citing a report by the United Nations’ Children’s Right and Emergency Relief Organization, Cayetano said about 1.8 million Filipino children are abandoned or neglected due to several reasons, including extreme poverty, natural disasters, armed conflicts, and other problems at home.

“These children are usually placed under institutional care through state-run or accredited residential care facilities, while others end up on the streets,” according to Cayetano, herself a foster parent and eventual adoptive mom to her 8-year-old son, Rene Lucas. 

“Sadly, there are not enough institutions to attend to their needs, not to mention the fact that these institutions cannot give the warmth and affection only a family could provide,” she lamented. 

Cayetano’s bill seeks to address the issue by streamlining government policies on alternative child care, such that the out-of-home care provided by residential care facilities shall only be a last resort for the children. 

“[T]he State shall ensure that a child without parental care or at risk of losing it are provided with alternative care options such as foster care, kinship care, kafalah (Islamic provision of alternative care), guardianship, or residential care, including family-like care,” the measure read.

SBN 61 likewise makes adoption administrative in nature to effectively streamline its procedures and make formal adoption accessible.

Furthermore, the bill calls for the establishment of a one-stop agency to improve and expedite the process of all modes of alternative child care. The National Authority for Child Care (NACC) shall be an attached agency of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), tasked to formulate and develop policies on pre-adoption, adoption, inter-country adoption, foster care, guardianship leading to adoption, and other alternative child care policies.

This includes programs that will protect the Filipino child from abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and any adoption practice that is harmful, detrimental and prejudicial to his/her best interests.

The NACC shall also be in charge of conducting advocacy campaigns on alternative child care, in cooperation with various national government agencies, non-government organizations, peoples’ organizations, faith based organizations, and civil society.

Moreover, Cayetano’s bill seeks to make Foster Care a mandatory and permanent program of the NACC. The agency shall be tasked to develop programs that will ensure the awareness and responsiveness of local government officials in the promotion of the foster care system in every city, municipality, or barangay.

The institutionalization of foster care in the country as a preferred way of caring for abused, abandoned, or neglected children is mandated by Republic Act 10165 or the Foster Care Act of 2012, of which Cayetano was the principal author and sponsor.

“We really need to see more modes of alternative child care working in our communities, as these are proven to be more beneficial than institutional care, in that it provides children with the love and attention that can only be found in a family setting,” Cayetano said, drawing from her own experience as a foster parent and adoptive mom. #

Senator Pia Cayetano leads dedication rites for abandoned and neglected children in Taguig City during an orientation program for prospective foster families.

Better use of funds for health services pushed

Senatorial candidate Pia S. Cayetano vowed to push for a better utilization of government funds to build and improve public health facilities throughout the country and to provide them with state-of-the-art equipment. 

The Taguig representative on Monday (April 15) visited the Compostela Valley Provincial Hospital in Pantukan, where she discussed her health advocacy with the doctors and nurses working in the public hospital.

“If we can help in any way, please let us know. Let us know what we can do to push the policies na diretso sa inyo ang benepisyo, to make your lives better,” Cayetano told them.

She stressed the need to complement the newly enacted Universal Health Care (UHC) Law by ensuring that the health facilities and services made accessible to all Filipinos are properly equipped and of great quality. 

The UHC law, of which Cayetano was co-author, makes all Filipinos members of PhilHealth, thus making them eligible to preventive, promotive, curative, rehabilitative, and palliative health care services provided by government.

“You can be rest assured that, apart from the laws that we already made, we will keep on providing you with whatever intervention possible. Because sometimes, no matter how much you give, if you have limited facilities and equipment, the quality of health care services will be affected,” she said.

“My inspiration is to work to a point where the average Filipino has access to quality health care services,” she added. 

Cayetano then expressed her gratitude to the country’s public health workers for their dedication to protect the lives of every Filipino, especially the poor.

“Ang paghanga ko sa mga nagseserbisyo sa ating bayan, especially on healthcare, is really high. So please accept my gratitude to you for serving our people. And I want to remind you that your work never goes unnoticed,” she said. 

As former chair of the Senate the Committee on Health, Cayetano pushed for the passage of several landmark measures, including the Sin Tax Law, which led to the collection of billions worth of funds for the development of health centers and facilities.#

Senatoriable Pia S. Cayetano greets two nursing mothers at the Compostela Valley  Provincial Hospital in Pantukan on Monday (April 15). Cayetano has committed to work to make public health services more responsive once elected to the Senate.