Pia welcomes new panel on Sustainable Dev’t Goals

Senator Pia S. Cayetano welcomed the formation of a new standing committee that would oversee the country’s progress in achieving its commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030. 

The Senate on Tuesday (September 3) adopted Philippine Senate Resolution (PSR) 122 creating the Committee on SDGs, Innovations, and Futures Thinking, while merging two other panels in line with the objective of streamlining the number of standing committees of the Senate.

The resolution was sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri and adopted unanimously by the senators.

Cayetano said the formation of the new panel would help ensure that the Institution shall be “cognizant and conscious” of the 17 SDGs agreed upon by member-countries of the UN, including the Philippines. The SDGs seek to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity by 2030. 

“It would be the responsibility of the Committee to at least make sure that the body knows that there are such goals that need to be achieved by way of prioritizing,” the senator stressed.

“I believe that the biggest contribution of the [SDGs] Committee would be on [tackling] overlapping goals… Many times, a committee is left within the confines of a bill pending before it… That’s why the SDGs Committee is secondarily referred to ensure that we take a bigger picture,” she added. 

Furthermore, Cayetano pointed out that the new committee would oblige the Senate to allot the needed time and resources in addressing issues that can generally affect the next generation of Filipinos. Thus, the term “Futures Thinking.” 

“That is something that we tend to neglect precisely because by human nature and survival, we tend to focus on the problems on hand. The objective here is to be planning for the future, to think out of the box,” she noted. 

Aside from creating the new committee, PSR 122 merged several standing committees of the Senate, namely: the Committee on Agriculture and Food with the Committee on Agrarian Reform; the Committee on National Defense and Security with the Committee on Peace, Unification, and Reconciliation; and the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources with the Committee on Climate Change.

The reorganization reduced the number of standing committees of the Senate from 41 to 39, which Zubiri said had been the chamber’s average number of committees in the last four Congresses. #

Senator Pia Cayetano, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon (foreground) discuss the rationale for the creation of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals, Innovations, and Futures Thinking during Tuesday’s session. (Sept.3)   

Tax reform passage needed to fund social services -Pia

Improving the government’s delivery of services to Filipino families is the primary goal of reforming the country’s tax measures, Senator Pia S. Cayetano reiterated on Wednesday (August 21).

“We’re passing taxation measures not because it is being imposed upon us by any international body. We’re in a position where we are cleaning up our [own] house, not because we have to but because it’s the best thing to do,” Cayetano told media members at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay in Cafe Adriatico, hosted by journalist Marichu Villanueva. 

The senator currently chairs the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, which is tasked to tackle the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) as part of government’s effort to achieve its targets under the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The CTRP includes proposals seeking to lower the corporate income tax (CIT) and rationalize tax incentives of businesses (Package 2); impose higher excise taxes on alcohol products and e-cigarettes (Package 2+);  reform the property valuation system (Package 3); and rationalize capital income taxation (Package 4).

Cayetano said she plans to conduct a hearing every week to discuss the tax measures. The panel’s discussion on hiking excise taxes on alcohol is set to resume next week, followed by two to three more hearings on e-cigarettes and vape products.

“I want to be sure that all stakeholders have a chance to be heard on record,” Cayetano noted. 

The senator said her primary duty as ways and means chair is to ensure that the government will generate enough revenues to fund its social services on health, education, and the environment. 

Package 2+ in particular seeks to bridge the current funding gap of the Universal Health Care (UHC) Program.

“Our UHC program is moving forward. But I really want to see it further funded. That’s where my passion is coming from to make these [tax reforms] happen. We want to be able to help our people feel the effects [of UHC],” Cayetano said. 

“At the end of the day, taxation is not just to raise funds. It’s also to protect the health of Filipinos,” she added.

Package 2: CITIRA bill

Meanwhile, the senator said she is also keen on proposals to lower the country’s corporate income taxes (CIT) and rationalize incentives given to investors.

“We have one of the highest tax rates in corporate Asia. That paints a not very inviting picture to investors. If we want to be competitive with our ASEAN neighbors, one thing that we can do is to reduce the corporate income tax rate,” Cayetano cited. 

She said the government is also losing revenues due to the gaps in our policies on granting incentives to different businesses.  

“We have so many agencies offering different kinds of [incentives] packages. Tayo lang pala ang may forever. In other countries, they put a timeline. And despite our incentives, we are still not the go-to place of investors in Southeast Asia,” Cayetano said, stressing the need to rationalize such grants. 

Package 3: reforming the Property Valuation System

Another tax measure awaiting passage is Package 3 of the CTRP, which seeks to introduce reforms to develop “a just, equitable, and efficient real property valuation system.”

Cayetano stressed that the country’s outdated property valuation system is “impairing our ability to conduct business well.”

“Imagine, hindi natin nalalagay sa tamang value ang mga [land resources] natin. That’s something that I do hope we can address through a tax reform measure,” she said. #

“Our UHC program is moving forward. But I really want to see it further funded.” – Senate Ways and Means Chair Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Pia backs elevated walkways, bike lanes in the metro

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is fully supportive of the proposal to build elevated walkways and bike lanes along major roads in the country, stressing that this would help transform Philippine cities into sustainable communities. 

During her interpellation of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri’s privilege speech on Tuesday (August 20), Cayetano stressed the importance of creating alternative mobility options in urban areas to reduce traffic congestion, improve people’s health, and preserve the environment.

“This is a necessity that millions and millions of [Filipinos] will appreciate,” Cayetano said in response to Zubiri’s suggestion to construct elevated walkways along EDSA for the use of pedestrians and bikers.

“These are the things that we would like to bring to our people’s consciousness. Making our communities livable will also help protect Filipino families’ health and well being,” she added. 

The senator has filed several measures in the 18th Congress towards this objective.

Senate Bill No.65 or the ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities Act’ directs local governments to ensure public access to social services, preferential use of renewable resources, efficient waste management systems, and reliable mass transport, among others.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill No.66 or the ‘Sustainable Transportation Act’ mandates the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to come up with a Sustainable Transport Action Plan that shall lay down the roadmap for national and local transportation systems throughout the country.

Apart from these, Cayetano filed the ‘National Bicycle Act of 2019,’ seeking to officially recognize bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation in the country. 

These measures, the senator stressed, are in line with the country’s commitment to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly on making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

“The budget for these programs is really something that I feel is an absolute need,” Cayetano said, while expressing her plan to file a ‘Build, Build, Build’ counterpart program for non-motorized vehicles. 

A known biking enthusiast and triathlete, Cayetano has been encouraging local governments to put up additional protected bike lanes in their cities and municipalities, similar to Taguig City’s 5.58-kilometer bicycle lane along Laguna Lake Highway. #

During her interpellation on the speech of Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senator Pia Cayetano stressed the importance of creating alternative mobility options for people living and working in urban centers.

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)

Breastfeeding vital to achieving sustainable dev’t goals

Senator Pia S. Cayetano called for the cooperation of all sectors in supporting the culture of breastfeeding among Filipina mothers to ensure the health of succeeding generations of young Filipinos, which she said is vital to achieving the country’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

A staunch breastfeeding advocate, Cayetano authored the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009 (RA 10028) which mandates paid lactation breaks for nursing employees in the workplace, and the establishment of breastfeeding rooms in public places, like shopping malls, government facilities, and transport hubs such as airports, seaports, and bus stations. 

“Breastfeeding safeguards the well-being of babies and mothers. It ensures a healthy future for the child, positively affects the mother’s health, and thus enables the family to be better members of the community,” the senator said on Breastfeeding Month which is celebrated in August .

“The gains we’ve made since the passage of RA 10028 ten years ago are the results of our social investments in breastfeeding. We should press on in helping mothers breastfeed and educating them on its importance,” she added. 

“I know it is not easy, especially for working mothers because I also breastfed my children. I’ve become an advocate ever since,” shared the senator, who worked as a corporate lawyer prior to entering politics in 2004. 

“Our objective is to create a favorable environment for Filipina mothers to fully embrace breastfeeding, especially among young and new mothers,” Cayetano said, adding that this would require cooperation from both government and the private sector.

To ensure that Philippine Congress itself complies with the law it passed and become ‘breastfeeding-friendly’ institutions under RA 10028, Cayetano personally worked for the establishment of lactation rooms for nursing employees in both the Senate (in August 2014) and the House of Representatives (in March 2019). 

Cayetano also helped set up human milk banks in Taguig City and Cebu City, and sponsored breastfeeding seminars and milk donation campaigns in various places across the country as part of her Pinay In Action (PIA) advocacy. 

The senator said the social benefits from supporting breastfeeding should bring the country closer towards achieving Goal 2 (“achieve zero hunger”) and Goal 3 (“ensure good health and well-being”) of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. 

She noted that even the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recognizes the vital role of breastfeeding in achieving the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. UNICEF notes that breastfeeding can help achieve many of the 17 SDGs, including the goals on health, poverty, hunger, education, gender equality, and sustainable consumption.

“We need to take stronger initiatives to build on our gains. Let’s always remember that a healthy community is a sustainable community. If we want to achieve our sustainable development goals, let’s first make our babies and mothers healthy,” Cayetano concluded.#

Standing proudly in front of a breastfeeding room at a shopping mall in Cavite. The establishment of lactation stations in public places is one of the highlights of Cayetano’s Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (RA 10028).
Breastfeeding-friendly workplace: Senator Pia Cayetano with breastfeeding employees at the lactation room that Cayetano helped establish at the the Senate in 2014.

Pia seeks protection of PH forest resources

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed a bill seeking to enact a comprehensive sustainable forest management strategy to safeguard the country’s dwindling forest resources.

Through Senate Bill No. 284, or the ‘Sustainable Forest Management Act,’ Cayetano wants the country to preserve and optimize the utilization of forest resources  in line with the government’s sustainable development agenda. 

She said protecting forest resources forms part of government commitments to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the Philippines adopted in 2015. Goal 13 of the SDGs urges nations to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts.

“Forests provide the country with natural resources that contribute to economic growth. They provide livelihood through raw materials that are converted into finished products,” Cayetano said. 

“At the same time, forests serve as protection and buffer from natural disasters, and help mitigate the effects of climate change,” added the senator, a known environment advocate.

She lamented, however, how the Philippines has been losing approximately 47,000 hectares of forest each year, increasing the risk of massive social and economic losses from resource depletion and climate disasters.

“As President Duterte said in his SONA, natural disasters are poverty creators. And so protecting our forests is not only an environment matter, but an economic imperative,” she stressed. 

Cayetano’s bill seeks to promote land use practices to protect existing forest resources, conserve our fragile biodiversity, and rehabilitate deforested or denuded areas. 

The Forest Management Bureau shall be the primary agency to oversee  the development, management, and utilization of forest lands, including the identification of areas for protection or production purposes. An Undersecretary for Forestry position shall also be created under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). 

Furthermore, the bill rationalizes the establishment, operations, and development of forest-based industries, mandating the DENR to institute measures for an open and competitive market of our forest products. 

SBN 284 pushes for the establishment of agroforestry economic zones to ease the conduct of business and attract local and foreign investments. 

The proposal also seeks to improve the quality of forestry education to develop highly skilled human resources in the field of sustainable forest management. 

Finally, SBN 284 provides for a Community-Based Forest Management Program (CBFMP) to be undertaken by concerned national agencies and the local government units. 

“With this, we aim to empower indigenous people’s groups and other forest-based communities as stewards and partners in managing our forest resources in a sustainable way,” Cayetano noted. #

Senator Pia Cayetano visits an upland village in Mt. Ugo in Benguet, Cordillera Administrative Region. (file photo)
In this file photo, senator and mountain trail enthusiast Pia Cayetano participates at a trail run in Mt. Ugo. The annual event promotes fitness and environmental awareness.
Senator Pia Cayetano unfurls the tri-colors at the peak of Mt. Ugo. At 2,150 meters above sea level (MASL), the famed mountain is one of the tallest in the Cordillera region. (file photo)

Pia vows to help fulfill SONA development goals

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has vowed to carry out the legislative work necessary to fulfill President Rodrigo Duterte’s vision for the country, as outlined in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA).

 “The main message is really simple. The President wants a better and more comfortable life for the Filipinos,” she told reporters in an ambush interview after the President addressed the joint session of Congress on Monday.   

“I look forward to helping him see his dream for our country come true in the next three years,” the returning senator added. 

Several legislative items mentioned by the Chief Executive in his SONA already have counterparts filed in the Senate by the senator. 

These include the measures creating a Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR); the National Land Use Policy Act; and the salary hike for public school teachers, which the President wants expanded to cover all government workers, including nurses, by introducing  amendments to the Salary Standardization Law. 

She described the President’s call to lift six million Filipinos from poverty as his most daunting challenge to members of the House and Senate. 

“Yun ang talagang pagtutuunan ko ng pansin. From education, to health, to livelihood, sa mga ikagaganda ng buhay ng mga vulnerable, lalo na ‘yung mga senior citizens, may kapansanan, lahat po ‘yun,” she emphasized. 

In line with these objectives, Cayetano has filed her version of ‘Build, Build, Build’ bills seeking to fast-track infrastructure requirements for public education and health services, respectively. 

Meanwhile, Cayetano’s proposed Education Roadmap Act seeks to align the skills and competencies of students with the evolving needs of industry to make our graduates globally competitive and job-ready. 

The senator has also filed the Tulong Puhunan bill to assist the growth of the micro and small enterprises sector, the role of which was also cited in SONA.

Another measure mentioned by the President that has also been filed by Cayetano is the bill creating a National Academy of Sports for high school students. 

The pronouncement, she said, reflects the President’s regard for the important role of youth and sports in national development. #

Senator Pia Cayetano delivers a manifestation on the Senate floor at the opening of the first regular session of the 18th Congress.
Returning and newly elected senators take their oath during the first session of the Senate.

Biking senator files National Bicycle Act

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for a law that would officially recognize bicycles as an alternative and sustainable mode of transportation throughout the country.

A biking and fitness enthusiast, Cayetano has filed the ‘National Bicycle Act of 2019,’ which shall mandate the development of policies, infrastructure, and facilities to properly integrate bicycles as part of the public transportation system.

“It is time to change our mindset about traffic and find alternative means to move forward from this perennial problem,” Cayetano said of the yet unnumbered bill, which she filed among her second batch of measures for the 18thCongress.   

The returning senator said cycling not only offers an efficient means of mobility amid the daily traffic gridlock, but is also an affordable, environment-friendly, and healthy alternative to motor vehicles.

“We should do away with the old thinking that cars are for the rich and bikes are for the poor. Increasingly, we see more people coming to work on two wheels, young and old, from vendors to workers, professionals, and even executives,” the senator observed.

“Many startups are also switching to using bicycles, like courier and food delivery services. Biking is not just a means of leisure or past time, it has become a way of life for many Filipinos,” she added.   

Cayetano herself regularly uses a bike to visit and interact more directly with residents in urban communities and to reach far-flung towns and mountain villages in the provinces. She also joins triathlons and bike festivals that highlight local sports and eco-tourism. During the last electoral campaign, cycling groups joined the former Taguig City representative to promote her candidacy and advocacies through her ‘bicycle-cades.’  

The senator admitted that the major downside remains safety. “News and social media posts regularly report about bikers being sideswiped or ran over by undisciplined drivers of motor vehicles. And so this is one reason why we need to enact a national policy to ensure the protection of bikers,” she stressed.         

Under her bill, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), in coordination with local government units shall take the lead in designating bicycle lanes, which shall serve as exclusive passage for cyclists. Motor vehicles will be prohibited from being driven or parked on any bike lane. 

The bike lanes shall be separated by a physical barrier, whenever possible, and shall be clearly identified with signs or pavement markings. In cases where installation of a physical barrier is not feasible, the lane for bicycles shall be identified through reflectorized painted lines.

Bike promotion measures also include improvements on sidewalks, traffic calming and speed reduction, pedestrian and bicycle crossing, traffic signages covering bicycles, off-street pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and traffic diversion, among others.

Cayetano’s bill mandates all public places, government offices, schools, major business establishments, including malls, banks, restaurants, hospitals, and the like, to provide adequate racks for bike parking and other infrastructure as far as practicable.

Meanwhile, the private sector will be encouraged to develop counterpart infrastructure, facilities and programs to help promote biking. 

Aside from the Bicycle Act, Cayetano has also filed complementary measures, namely the Sustainable Transportation Act (SBN 65) and the Sustainable Cities and Communities Act (SBN 66).  #

Senator Pia Cayetano pedals at the three-meter-wide protected bike lane, which stretches throughout the Laguna Lake Highway (C6 Highway) from Taguig City going to Pasig City.

Pia pushes for sustainable cities, transportation

A green, bikeable, and walkable Metro Manila? It can be done!

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is pushing for two measures that she hopes would augur the transformation of Metro Manila and other urban centers in the country into sustainable cities and communities. 

Cayetano’s Senate Bill No.65, the ‘Sustainable Cities and Communities Act,’ envisions urban centers and human settlements that are ‘inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable,’ in line with the country’s commitments under Goal 11 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

The bill tasks local governments to ensure public access to social services, preferential use of renewable resources, efficient waste management systems, as well as reliable mass transport, among others.

Under the measure, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) shall set targets based on key indicators to determine whether a city or community has fully transitioned into a sustainable city or community.

The NEDA indicators shall measure how local governments units (LGUs) are managing urban population living in slums, public transportation access, sustainable urbanization rate (ratio of land utilization to population growth rate), and urban planning. 

The targets would also factor in the performance of local governments with respect to cultural heritage protection, disaster preparedness, pollution control, and solid waste management. 

The bill assigns the Department of interior and Local Government to provide technical assistance to LGUs, while NEDA would come up with an incentive system for local governments that are able to meet their sustainable development targets.

On the other hand, Cayetano’s Senate Bill No.66, or the ‘Sustainable Transportation Act,’ seeks to promote mobility options to serve the people’s changing needs, such as walking, biking, and efficient mass transportation. 

The bill pushes for sustainable and alternative modes of transport, not just to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also to cut time and travel costs, and to promote an active lifestyle among citizens. 

It mandates the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to come up with a Sustainable Transport Action Plan that shall lay down the roadmap for national and local transportation systems to be adhered to in all levels throughout the country. 

Some highlights of the Sustainable Transport Action Plan are as follows: 

-Installation of walkways;

– Designation of bike lanes and provision of bike racks and parking spaces;

-Public transportation as primary mobility option to the general public;

– Establishment of a ferry system; 

– Commissioning of a bus rapid transit system; and

– Travel demand management programs (which includes promotion of car pooling and telecommuting programs). 

Known as a biker and fitness enthusiast, Cayetano said it is high time to revisit our way of thinking and lifestyle in order to safeguard people’s health and the environment. 

She cited the successful rehabilitation of Boracay and current efforts to clean up urban sidewalks, waterways, and public places of obstructions by newly elected mayors of Metro Manila as encouraging signs that urban renewal is possible.

“We need political will at the local level to enforce laws and ordinances to put our cities in order, but it’s also the task of government to set an overall vision to achieve sustainable cities and communities. And so we hope to provide that vision with these two measures,” Cayetano concluded. #

Senator Pia S. Cayetano at the bike lane along Laguna Lake Highway (C6) in Taguig City: It’s the task of government to set an overall vision to achieve sustainable development.