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)

Bill seeking to produce globally competitive graduates pushed

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for the establishment of a common national policy on education that will train Filipino students to be job-ready and globally competitive.

In filing Senate Bill No. 62 or the ‘Education Roadmap Act,’ Cayetano aims to institutionalize an education roadmap that incorporates the needed skills and competencies that industries constantly look for in new graduates.

The senator said her proposal seeks to guarantee gainful employment for Filipino students after graduation by addressing current ‘overlapping and confusing education policies.’ Furthermore, the measure aims to make the Philippines at par with its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of producing a competitive workforce. 

Under SBN 62, an Education Roadmap National Coordinating Council shall be created to design, formulate, and monitor implementation of the educational roadmap. 

The council shall focus on five key components, namely, Global Languages, Graduate Competencies, Teacher Competencies, Capacity Building for Centers of Excellence, and School-to-Work Transition.

Furthermore, the national policy on global languages shall be aligned with the Common Framework of Reference for Languages to warrant national and global competitiveness, especially in the areas of education and labor. 

“The roadmap incorporates a careful review of existing curricula so that the skills required by local and international industries from new graduates are integrated in our academic programs,” the senator explained. 

“This roadmap also aims to strengthen capacity building for teachers so that they could properly equip their students with relevant skills and competencies,” she added. 

The bill includes a policy for the seamless progression of students from basic education to higher education and, eventually, to employment. This involves strengthening and expanding internship, apprenticeship, and dual-training programs for students, as well as dynamic collaboration among the government, academe, and industry.

“To ensure that our students’ training are aligned with the requirements of their future employers, industry sector representatives shall be consulted or tapped in developing and implementing the educational roadmap,” Cayetano noted.

“Our education program must constantly keep up with the changing and growing needs of industries. We must also secure lifelong learning opportunities for our youth so that they will be globally competitive and job-ready upon graduation,” the senator said.

A staunch advocate of youth empowerment in Congress, Cayetano has championed several measures to improve the quality and accessibility of education. Among her latest proposals is the  Build, Build, Build for Education Bill which lays down a five-year plan to accelerate infrastructure development in Philippine state universities and colleges (SUCs). #

Senator Pia Cayetano has championed several measures seeking to make quality education accessible to the Filipino youth. (file photo)

Pia: Teachers need pay hike to keep up with decent living standards

To be able to teach effectively, public school teachers need to live decently. 
This was emphasized by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, as she noted the huge disparity between the living wage recommended by government economic planners and the current take-home pay of the average public school teacher. 
Recent estimates by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) show that an average Filipino family of five with two working members earning P21,000 each, needs a combined income of P42,000 a month to be able to provide for their basic household needs. 
In the case of public school teachers, where the entry-level pay (Salary Grade 11) earns a gross income of P20,574, Cayetano noted that the amount even falls short of government’s own living wage standards, especially after regular deductions from their basic pay are factored in. 
It is for this reason that the returning senator and former Taguig City representative has been pushing for a substantial hike in the compensation of educators in basic education. 
Cayetano has filed Senate Bill No. 70, the’Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education Act’ among her priority measures in the 18th Congress. 
SBN 70 proposes a salary increase of P10,000 per month for public school teachers, locally-funded teachers, and non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd). 
Under the bill, the P10,000 teachers wage hike will be granted in three tranches over the next three years, as follows: P4,000 per month on the first year, an additional P3,000 per month on the second year, and a final increment of P3,000 pesos per month, on the third year. 
On top of the salary adjustment, other benefits stipulated in the bill include medical allowance, a yearly bonus based on the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), and  additional compensation from local school board funds.
‘Considering their crucial role in society, teachers should receive an average pay that would allow them to keep up with decent living wage standards set by the government,’ said Cayetano. 
“The pay hike rightfully deserved by our teachers will improve their quality of life and motivate them to perform their tasks exceptionally,” she added. “Adequate pay and benefits should also encourage our best and brightest minds to enter the teaching profession as envisioned by our Constitution.”
While admitting that there are serious fiscal considerations in carrying out the measure, Cayetano said the level of pay matters when it comes to strengthening teacher competencies and the overall quality of teaching and learning in the basic education sector. 
As the former chairperson of the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture, Cayetano has worked for the passage of numerous landmark laws to enhance public education in the country.
These include the National Teacher’s Day Act (RA 10743), Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or UniFAST Act (RA 10687), Open High School System Act (RA 10665), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (RA 10648), and Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647). #

Senator Pia Cayetano: Teachers should receive an average pay that would allow them to keep up with decent living wage standards set by the government.

Pia files inclusive education bill for kids with special needs

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is affirming her commitment to work for the welfare of children with special needs and afford them the right to accessible quality education.

 The senator has filed the ‘Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act’ (Senate Bill No. 69) which seeks to establish inclusive learning resource centers for children and youth with special needs (CYSNs) in all public school divisions in the country.

“Children with disabilities have the same rights as any other child. They deserve access to a kind of education system where their special needs are attended to,” said Cayetano, principal author of RA 10070, which mandates the creation of Persons with Disability Office (PDAO) in every province, city, and municipality.

“They deserve to learn in an environment with compassion and understanding, and where they can grow as productive members of the community,” she added.

The proposed measure was first conceptualized by Cayetano, along with special education stakeholders, when she chaired the Senate Committee on Education, Arts, and Culture back in the 16th Congress. 

Citing records from the Department of Education (DepEd), Cayetano said majority of the country’s 5.5 million CYSNs have limited access to public education due to lack of accessibility features in schools, among other attitudinal and environmental factors.

“This bill aims to address and remove all these  barriers in our education system to allow CYSNs to participate in the regular school system,” the senator explained. 

Under SBN 69, the policy of inclusion shall be instituted in all public schools to provide CYSNs with equitable opportunities to educational services. Furthermore, the bill seeks to empower parents and family members of CYSNs with proper information and training.

All public school divisions of the DepED shall likewise establish an Inclusive Education Learning Resource Center that shall assist in promoting inclusive education to enable regular schools to handle the needs of CYSNs effectively.

The bill also proposes the formation of an Inter-Agency Coordinating Council on Inclusive Education (IACCIE), which is tasked to integrate and harmonize policies with regard to inclusive education.

Lastly, SBN 69 mandates the establishment of Child Development Centers (CDCs) near all schools or within existing Inclusive Education Learning Resource Centers. The CDCs will be specially designed for preschool children and their parents, where early identification of disabilities or special needs and intervention programs can be administered.#

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is greeted with a waving of hands by hearing impaired youth during a sports clinic for the differently abled in Taguig City earlier this year.
“This bill aims to address and remove all barriers to allow CYSNs (Children and Youth with Special Needs) to participate in the regular school system.”

Pia files ‘Build, Build, Build for Education’ Bill

Following the economy’s gains from the government’s accelerated infrastructure program, also known as ‘Build, Build, Build,’ Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for a similar initiative to fast-track the progress of quality tertiary education in the country. 

Cayetano has filed the Priority Infrastructure for Public Higher Education Institutions Act, which she called the ‘Build, Build, Build’ Program for Education Bill.

The yet-to-be-numbered bill maps out a five-year priority infrastructure plan, with a fixed budget of P10 billion, for the improvement of facilities in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). 

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) will be tasked to identify the priority infrastructure projects based on the needs of the 112 SUCs across the country.

Cayetano said the government has made notable strides towards giving Filipinos better access to education, especially with the passage the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Act that grants free tuition to students in SUCs.

However, she lamented that while students have been accorded free tuition, a great number of SUCs in the country still “grieve for educational infrastructure.” 

“Thus, there is a need to enact a law ensuring that the facilities made available to students are well-equipped and of high quality,” said Cayetano. 

“Classrooms remain overcrowded and hallways are still being used as classrooms in many SUCs. There is also a shortage of Science and Computer laboratories. These conditions are not optimal for learning and likewise for teaching. Poor educational infrastructure impedes the intellectual growth and health of the youth,” she added. 

Cayetano said the bill was a fulfillment of her campaign promise to push for a measure that would allow Filipino graduates to be more globally competitive and job-ready. 

The bill is expected to boost the country’s efforts to ensure quality higher learning and upgrade its education facilities by 2030 under its Sustainable Development Goals. It also seeks to help the government meet its objectives under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, particularly on improving the quality of higher and technical education for global competitiveness. 

Other education measures that the senator has filed so far in the 18th Congress include the Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Bill, Educational Roadmap Bill, as well as the measure providing for additional support and compensation for educators in Basic Education. 

The former chairperson of the Senate Education Committee, Cayetano authored laws in previous Congresses promoting the welfare of Filipino students, namely the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education or Unifast Act (Republic Act 10687), Iskolar ng Bayan Act (Republic Act 10648), Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), and Open High School System Act (RA 10665). #

File photo: Then Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano (in blue) sits down with students of Pangasinan Sate University in San Carlos City.

Pia files first 10 bills in support of PH development goals

Returning senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed her first 10 bills in the Senate with the aim of fulfilling her campaign promise to champion legislation that will help achieve the country’s development goals. 

Her proposed measures, Cayetano stressed, are anchored on the government’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations (UN) Member-States, including the Philippines, in 2015.

The PDP 2017-2022 is the first medium-term plan launched by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) under the Duterte administration, leading to a vision known as “AmBisyon Natin 2040,” where Filipino families are seen to enjoy a “strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life” in 25 years.

The SDGs, meanwhile, are a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly, with strategies geared towards improving health and education, reducing inequality, spurring economic growth, and addressing climate change.
In line with these goals, Cayetano filed her first batch of bills in the Senate and plans to file more measures in the coming weeks to address challenges hindering sustainable and inclusive growth for the country. 

Furthermore, she vowed to continue focusing on her long-time advocacies as a legislator, including education, health, women and family welfare, and sustainable communities.

Among Cayetano’s priority measures are:

1. Alternative Child Care Code of the Philippines 

2. Educational Roadmap Act 

3. Priority Health Infrastructure Act (Build, Build, Build for Health)

4. Priority Infrastructure for Public Higher Education Institutions Act (Build, Build, Build for Education)

5. Sustainable Cities and Communities Act

6. Sustainable Transportation Act

7. Act Recognizing the Foreign Decree of Termination of Marriage

8. Amendments to the Family Code of the Philippines (to ensure the equality of men and women under the laws of marriage and family relations) 

9. Inclusive Education for Children and Youth with Special Needs Act

10. Act Providing for Additional Support and Compensation for Educators in Basic Education (Teachers salary increase)

“We already have a set of goals that we envision for future generations of Filipinos. What we need is a comprehensive action plan to ensure that our goals will be met,” Cayetano said.

“For my part, I will continue what I started since my first term as a legislator and push for more laws to empower Filipinos through education, proper healthcare services, children and family welfare policies, and sustainable development,” the senator concluded.#

Let’s make our graduates job-ready – Pia

In line with this year’s celebration of Labor Day, Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano vowed to continue fighting for measures that will improve the quality of education in the country and make Filipino graduates job-ready. 

The congresswoman was in San Fernando Pampanga on Wednesday (May 1) to attend the 117th Labor Day Celebration spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

During her speech, Cayetano stressed the importance of allocating more budget for the improvement of the Philippine education system in order to prepare young Filipinos to be competitive members of the workforce.

“I will continue to fight for us to put in more budget for education because the demands that will be put on our labor force will be very high,” she said, particularly stressing Central Luzon’s great potential to be a center of economic growth in the country, owing to the region’s continued infrastructure developments.

On this note, Cayetano said the government and the private sector should work together to ensure that the youth are ready to take on the challenge of meeting the demands of booming industries.

“We already have free tertiary education. But the question is, how well does our quality of education compare to our Asian neighbors,” she noted.

“That is where my education advocacy comes in, because free education alone is not enough. It is our collective responsibility to help young people get the opportunities that they deserve,” she added.

The Taguig representative urged the Department of Education (DepEd), Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), local government units (LGUs), and other concerned agencies to make sure that their Senior High School (SHS) Programs are really training students to be hireable.

She also pushed for the proper implementation of Republic Act 10687 or the Unified Student Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education (UniFAST) Act, of which she was an author.

“I am delighted that one of my laws has already been implemented, which is the UniFAST law. Through this, government can give up to P60,000 worth of financial assistance to poor and deserving students,” Cayetano said.

A known advocate of the youth sector in Congress, Cayetano authored more laws promoting the welfare of Filipino students, including the Iskolar ng Bayan Act (Republic Act 10648), Ladderized Education Act (RA 10647), Open Distance Learning Act (RA 10650), and Open High School System Act (RA 10665), among others. #

Senatoriable Pia S. Cayetano speaks before guests and officials present at the 117th Labor Day Celebration spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), held in San Fernando, Pampanga on Wednesday (May 1).

Pia seeks Congress oversight to assess education programs

Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano on Monday (April 29) said she plans to use Congress’ oversight function to assess whether the country’s existing education programs are truly benefiting Filipino students.

“I want to make sure that every Filipino has access to education services, and that our current laws are implemented in a manner that is consistent with our legislative intent,” Cayetano said in an interview with reporters in Lanao del Norte.

Among the education measures Cayetano authored was Republic Act 10687 or the Unified Financial Assistance System for Tertiary Education Act (UniFAST).

The law properly allocates government resources to ensure efficient distribution of financial assistance programs for Filipino students. It provides scholarships and loans to students based on certain qualifications.

The congresswoman said she particularly wants to find out whether enough students are benefiting from the said measure. 

“There are academically gifted students that deserve our support for their education. Those are all covered by the UniFAST law,” Cayetano noted.

“Kaya hihimayin ko ang batas na ito to be sure that it is being implemented in the way it was intended,” she added.

The senatorial candidate further expressed commitment to push for more education policies that could respond to the ever changing needs of Filipino students. 

“It is very important that we are willing to adjust and make the kind of changes necessary to meet our people’s needs,” Cayetano said.

“There’s so much to be done not just in lawmaking but in pushing for policies and more budget for the proper programs, to ensure that more deserving students are able to finish their studies,” she added.#

Senatoriable Pia Cayetano gets a warm in Lanao del Norte led by Governor Imelda ‘Angging’ Quibranza-Dimaporo, 1D Rep Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo and 2D Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo.

Pia wants year-round sports programs in schools

Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano is urging local government officials and Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) leaders to promote year-round sports programs in their respective communities, to encourage Filipino students to stay in school.

In a radio interview in the “Home of the Champions” General Santos City on Tuesday, Cayetano stressed the importance of sports in providing more opportunities for the youth to be productive and to develop their discipline. 

“Having year-round sports programs for the youth can really help our kids stay and excel in school. For me, the kind of discipline that they learn from sports is beneficial to their growth and development,” she said. 

The congresswoman added that sports activities are a good way to motivate young Filipinos to keep coming to school, which would in turn reduce the number of out-of-school youths and student dropouts in the country.

She then called on Filipino parents and teachers to keep encouraging their kids to harness their energy in sports and apply the same in their studies. 

Cayetano was a varsity volleyball player during her college days, and was even recruited to play for the Philippine Women’s Volleyball Team. When she became a senator, she authored laws that provide benefits to young athletes, one of which is the Student-Athlete Protection Act (Republic Act 10676). 
Meanwhile, Cayetano also urged local officials and SK leaders to give assistance to the families of out-of-school youths in order to ensure that the kids are properly guided to continue their studies and have a better future.

“One of the most common causes of children dropping out from schools is usually problems in their homes. Kaya nananawagan ako sa mga leaders natin on the ground na tulungan ang mga pamilyang ito para matuloy sa pag-aaral ang mga anak nila and make something of their lives,” Cayetano stressed. #

Senatoriable Pia S. Cayetano speaks at the International Youth Forum’s World Youth Camp held on Monday (April 15) in Lagao Gymnasium, General Santos City.

Pia seeks new tack to reduce school dropout rate

Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano believes that it is possible to effectively reduce the number of school dropouts throughout the country by giving educators the means to support students with learning disabilities. 

Cayetano, in a radio interview in Cebu City on Thursday, stressed that students who drop out of elementary and high school usually have special needs early on that were not given proper attention. 

“The reality is, many out of school youths dropped out because they had learning disabilities. They had no access to support systems in their school. It’s very possible that their own parents, perhaps due to poverty, also had no ability to support them,” she said.

A 2018 study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) showed that undiagnosed learning disabilities are among the most common causes of risk for dropping out among Grades 1-6 students.

“These children simply could not cope with the pressure. So we need to identify and assist these kids before they drop out. We need schools, especially during the first three grades, to have assistant teachers who can give additional attention to them,” Cayetano noted. 

The congresswoman said she plans to discuss with the Department of Education a proposal to establish volunteer programs for parents who are willing to assist teachers in responding to specific needs of students in the classrooms.

Cayetano also called on Sangguniang Kabataan leaders in the country to help encourage out-of-school youths to return to school by taking advantage of programs available to them, such as Alternative Learning Systems or ALS. 

“Let’s find a way for them to excel and then bring them back in alternative learning systems,” she added, while citing the Open High School Program, a system of education that uses multimedia technologies and flexible class schedules to allow students to continue their studies beyond the conventional classroom setup.

The author and sponsor of Republic Act No. 10665 or the Open High School System Act, Cayetano vowed to push for the law’s proper implementation by ensuring that every school district in the country offers ALS programs for high school students. #

Senatorial aspirant Pia S. Cayetano discusses her proposed programs on education and employment in a local radio interview in Cebu City on Thursday.