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.

Stay vigilant against measles outbreak

Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano urged Filipino families to remain vigilant about the spread of measles in their communities, even after measles cases have started to drop in the past weeks.

The Department of Health (DOH) recently reported that there is already a downward trend in the number of new measles cases in the country, owing to the agency’s intensified immunization campaign.

The principal author and sponsor of Republic Act 10152 or the Mandatory Infants and Children Immunization Act, Cayetano commended the efforts of the DOH, local officials, and barangay health workers on the ground in convincing Filipino parents to have their children vaccinated.

On the other hand, she stressed that there is still no room for complacency when it comes to protecting the children from diseases.

“We are very delighted by DOH’s report that measles cases in the country are already decreasing. But everyone should continue to be vigilant, ready, and non-complacent,” she said in a radio interview in Butuan City.

“Kailangan bumalik nang tuluyan ang kumpyansa sa bakuna. Dahil hindi lang tigdas ang maaaring maging panganib sa buhay ng mga anak natin, marami pang ibang delikadong sakit na pwede namang iwasan sa tulong ng bakuna,” she added.

Cayetano has long been fighting for the promotion of preventive healthcare measures for Filipino families as a way to save them from premature deaths and unnecessary illnesses.

“During my first term in the Senate, I decided to fight for laws that sought to protect children from various diseases, because I do not want to see any child dying despite the presence of preventive measures and solutions like vaccines,” she said.

Even before news broke out regarding the outbreak of measles in several provinces, Cayetano had been going around the country convincing Filipino families to restore their trust in vaccines.

In February, she had led an immunization drive for young children at the Rural Health Unit 3 of Barangay Mabiga in Mabalacat, Pampanga.#

File photo: Mass vaccination program in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Pia’s birthday wish: More families opening homes to foster care

Taguig Representative and senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano on Friday led the launching of Taguig City’s Foster Care Orientation and Recruitment program, which seeks to encourage foster parenting among more Filipino families. 

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. 

The principal author and sponsor of the measure, Cayetano said she drew her inspiration from her own experience in fostering and eventually adopting her son, Rene Lucas Cayetano. 
“Ang wish ko ay mapalaki ang lahat ng bata sa uri ng pamilyang kinalakihan ko – a family full of love, where the parents have a sense of responsibility to prepare their children for a better future” the congresswoman said. 

Cayetano lauded the Taguig city government, under the leadership of Mayor Lani Cayetano, for serving as a model-city in promoting the importance of foster care through its orientation and recruitment program for foster parents.

“I worked on the Foster Care Act for quite some time until it became a law. We really need to see it working in our local government units,” she said. 
RA 10165 stresses that in most cases, foster care is more beneficial than institutional care, in that it provides children with the proper attention and love that only families can give. 

For her part, the congresswoman stressed that there is a need to encourage more Filipinos to consider being foster families to neglected or abandoned children, and to subsequently train them on child care and development. 

According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), about 1.8 million Filipino children are abandoned or neglected due to several reasons, including extreme poverty, natural disasters, and armed conflicts. 

On the other hand, the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) 2017 annual report showed that only 5,819 children were placed in residential care facilities run by the agency. The rest were either placed under institutional care or ended up on the streets.
Apart from the launching of the orientation and recruitment program, Cayetano also witnessed the christening of three babies residing at the Taguig Lingap Center, the city’s temporary shelter for children at risk and the elderly. 

Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano watches from the audience as former representative Lino Cayetano addresses city social welfare workers, volunteers and parents.
Taguig Mayor City Lani Cayetano recounts the programs of the local government to support families and help children at risk.