Questioning the sustainability of polymer banknotes

Highlights of the manifestations of Senator Pia S. Cayetano
Inquiry on the use of polymer instead of abaca fiber for Philippine banknotes

Part 1

I would just like to go on a few issues on sustainability. I chair the Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking. So, my interventions are precisely to ask the agencies if we are really looking at the entire picture of sustainability and the SDGs that we have, and if we are using the resources we have to balance those different interests.

So I note, listening carefully to the presentation, that it is the view of BSP, basing it on studies conducted by similar agencies in other countries, that the shift to polymer notes is a sustainable move, right? That is the overall theme that I received.

I’d just like to go into that a little bit. You mentioned that the shift to polymer is more sustainable because of the use of less water, the carbon footprint is smaller, and that you can then recycle it into chairs, tables, etc.

But my question is, polymers are not biodegradable, right? As opposed to abaca and cotton, which are the main ingredients for the current paper that we use. Offhand, polymer is not biodegradable. There are ways that you can recycle it, but it is not biodegradable.

So in that sense, it is not truly sustainable. There are different ways we define ‘sustainability.’ Of course, reusing is one way, in a better direction than not. But it is not biodegradable, as opposed to abaca and cotton, is that correct?

I was listening very intently because it boils down to these kinds of issues. There are a lot of things we can produce out of plastic,[but] one of the biggest issues is collection. So I am shifting just to have a general discussion on this.

For example, the use of PET bottles, other products that can supposedly be broken down and reused – the difficulty is in the collection. So in the case of bills, that problem will be eliminated because when [BSP] retires old bills, people will then surrender it to you. So in terms of collection, that’s not that big of a problem. And then you can proceed to repurpose it in the examples you gave. Is that correct?

That does simplify it compared to other plastic products that are in the market, and then we claim that we can reuse it. But collection is one issue that we have. I hope the Committee has invited environmentalists to discuss this.

I’ll emphasize that [polymer] is still not biodegradable. When we look at the sustainability picture, we always have to take different factors into concern. It may in fact use less water, may have a smaller carbon footprint, but it will not biodegrade. It will still be there and it is a product we created and will stay there forever, as opposed to abaca and cotton.

The other SDG that I would like to point out is SDG 8, which is Decent Work [and Economic Growth]. So I think you know where I am going here. Decent work requires that we support our industries and one of those is the abaca industry. So when we look again at the whole sustainability of this program, we also look at how it affects work.

So there is an impact on the abaca farmers. I noted how you expressed that there are other ways to help the farmers, that only a small percent [is involved]. I listen and am conscious of that. But the fact remains that there is an effect.

And maybe if I look at another SDG to present a complete picture is that abaca farmers and the products they make form an integral part of our history, and in a way, our culture. We have always been known to be abaca exporters. Interestingly, yung manila folder came from that history, I was pleasantly surprised to be educated on that. So abaca production is a big part of who we are. There have been decisions made in the past in other countries, wherein they preserve the use of a certain product despite [the availability of new] technology to move towards a different way of production, because the original way of producing symbolizes who we are as a people. So that’s another reason that should always be taken into consideration.

I am not trying to minimize the advantages that you have presented for polymer. I am simply trying to present the complete picture coming from the SDG committee, which I chair.

So decent work and economic growth is a part of it and it affects who we are as a people because abaca production has been with us for a long time.

I think I will mention SDG 11 because sustainable communities are part of who the abaca farmers belong to. We want them to continue to be a sustainable community. And when we take away a part of what they rely on for work, then that affects their sustainability as a farming community. And it may actually not be totally sustainable because you are shifting to a product, as I said, that is not biodegradable.

And then, I wanted to point out that SDG 3 on Good Health. As you mentioned, you got the green light from DOH. Is that correct? I note that and I appreciate the work you did there because I like the fact that you looked at the different aspects. So if that is in fact a positive thing, then we have to recognize that and I commend you for looking at that. But yun nga lang, yung sa communities natin and digging further into the definition of sustainability, I think that’s something you might want to also look at.

So those are basically the main points that I wanted to raise because it is very possible that these points may affect your decision.

Let me just talk about historical and cultural preservation. By law, we actually protect buildings or other structures that are 50 years of age or older. We give it the benefit of the doubt that they have cultural significance. I see the Deputy Governor nodding his head so you are familiar with that. It’s not set in stone, [the structure] has to be assessed by the experts. Pero parang ganun din. And I appreciate the presentation by my good friend, Tony Lambino, on the use of the Philippine Eagle and how other countries use designs that are ‘personal’ to them. So ganun din, the use of abaca as a fabric is also ‘personal’ to us. It is your job in the Central Bank. Thank you also for a very thorough presentation on the mandate that you have on this.

On the part of legislature, we also look into this in aid of legislation. So that is just my role. I am trying to find a balance here. I have often been in situations where I need to propose legislation that balances the interests of different groups and sometimes they are conflicting. There may be reasons that point to one decision versus another, but I am always happy to hear all the reasons that may help me make a better decision. So that’s really the reason we are sharing this with the BSP.

I think that is all for now. I’ll just finally read into the record and mention Sustainable Cities and Communities earlier. I just want to read that because I think that may be a pivotal factor in any decision we make in changing the use of abaca in our money:

Culture has a crucial role to play in SDG 11, in making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, reliant, and sustainable. Specifically, target 11.4 calls for strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.

So I’ll build that into the argument also that there is a special role in the use of abaca for us. By the way, that is a quote from UNESCO. So yun lang, Mr Chairman, I will continue to monitor and learn from this. Thank you for calling this hearing, thank you rin sa BSP.

Part 2

As I mentioned when I asked questions earlier, I will be listening intently to all the presentations. And now that I have heard all, may I already place my request that BSP responds in writing to all those concerns? Because there were a lot of concerns raised that basically support the questions that I asked. I’d like point-by-point [responses] because when I dissected the issue on sustainability, narinig ko yung ibang side, there may not be complete truth to the conclusion by BSP that it [use of polymer] is in fact sustainable.

And when you speak of the health aspect, tama nga naman po ang pinoint out. There are studies that show…that you can’t really get COVID from touching surfaces. Of course, you should be mindful and always use sanitary practices. But by simply touching something, hindi ka magkaka-COVID that way. So if that is the main reason for the shift, because it’s safer, then we have to really study this.

And let me end by saying that I recognize the authority of BSP. Wala naman akong question doon. They are a very professional organization. They went through the process. Pero tayo naman po as senators, we also have our oversight power in aid of legislation, and that’s why we are having these inquiries. Yun lang naman, I just like a really thorough response to that, and I am hoping that I can hear from BSP that they are willing to really look at these issues again before we make that final decision, Mr. Chairman. That’s all. #

Pia bats for sustainability, intergenerational fairness

“It’s high time to rethink the way we manage our communities, transport system, and natural resources, like forests and water.”

Thus said Senator Pia S. Cayetano, as she pushed for four interrelated measures seeking to better align the government’s plans and policies with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations.

Cayetano’s four bills that promote sustainability – the Sustainable Cities and Communities Act, Sustainable Transportation Act, Sustainable Forest Management Act, and Water Sustainability Act – were among the first measures she filed in the 19th Congress.

“At the heart of these four measures is the concept of intergenerational fairness. This concept of justice among generations in our ways of living, and in the use and conservation of our resources will allow both present and future generations to meet their own needs,” the senator explained.

The Sustainable Cities and Communities Act mandates the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to set development targets for local government units based on key indicators that would track their progress to fully transition to becoming a sustainable city or community.

Meanwhile, the Sustainable Transportation Act pushes for a national policy shift towards promoting sustainable modes of transport, and ensuring efficient public transportation as the primary option for mobility for the general public.

Cayetano noted that she first filed the measure in 2011 during the 15th Congress, in collaboration with 2009 Ramon Magsaysay awardee, environmental activist, and lawyer Antonio ‘Tony’ Oposa.

The Sustainable Forest Management Act mandates the development of an effective and sustainable national forest management strategy, based on the delineation and allocation of forestland uses.

The bill was originally based on the committee report that was filed and sponsored by Cayetano in the 13th Congress, when she chaired the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

Finally, the Water Sustainability Act aims to ensure Filipinos’ unhampered access to safe and clean sources of water, and guarantee their availability for future generations through responsible and sustainable management.

The bill tasks the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in coordination with the NEDA and Department of Science and Technology, to consolidate all existing frameworks on water management and sustainability into the Philippine Water Sustainability Framework. #

Clark Bike Lanes
“It’s high time to rethink the way we manage our communities, transport system, and natural resources, like forests and water” – Senator Pia S. Cayetano

Key gov’t agencies back Sustainable Cities bill

Key government agencies expressed their support to Senator Pia S. Cayetano’s proposal to transform the country’s urban centers into sustainable communities that are better equipped for all kinds of future scenarios, including new pandemics and major disasters.

The Senate Committee on Urban Planning, Housing, and Resettlement conducted a hearing on Wednesday (July 1) to discuss, among others, Cayetano’s Senate Bill No. (SBN) 65, or the ‘Sustainable Cities & Communities Act.’

Filed last year, the bill seeks to support local governments in transforming their respective localities into sustainable communities. This will be undertaken by ensuring access to basic social services, renewable energy sources, efficient waste management systems, and reliable mass transportation.

“Studies show that survival of the people really lies on the sustainability of their community,” said Cayetano, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking

“When I drafted this bill, a pandemic was not in my mind, but our targets for our SDGs. Now, it is very clear that we need to prepare for all possible future scenarios,” she noted.

Cayetano said the proposal complements the country’s commitments to the United Nations’ (UN) SDGs agenda, particularly Goal 11, which seeks to make cities and human settlements “inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable” by 2030.

Urban Planning Committee Chair Sen. Francis Tolentino described Cayetano’s bill as “very timely,” especially since COVID-19 has highlighted the need for policy and infrastructural reforms to address the “mounting problems in our urban sustainability programs.”

“Sustainability transcends this contagion. And we must look for solutions. More than ever, we have to review and recalibrate our approach on urban development,” Tolentino stressed, citing data estimating more than half of the world’s population will live in urban centers by the year 2050.

Tolentino also suggested that education and the right to adequate housing be included as key targets in creating sustainable cities and communities under the bill.

Meanwhile, Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario said SBN 65 will help enable the agency to assist different cities and municipalities in crafting their respective land use and development plans.

“DHSUD fully supports Senate Bill No. 65… [It] will further support the efforts of the national government… in fine-tuning and strengthening the crafting of the Comprehensive Land Use Plans of all municipalities and cities nationwide,” Del Rosario stated.

Department of Education (DepEd) Undersecretary Tonisito Umali meanwhile said that the agency “completely agrees” with the objectives of SBN 65, and how education will fit in the model for sustainable cities and communities, as articulated in the bill’s provisions.

Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Ricojudge Echiverri also said SBN 65 will further promote local autonomy and community empowerment, which is one of the agency’s mandates.

“The department has been implementing programs and projects to promote sustainable communities at the local level. Thus, we manifest nothing but support for this measure,” Usec. Echiverri said. #

Pia to DOT: finalize safety guidelines for tourism sector

Senator Pia S. Cayetano is calling for a detailed government action plan to help the country’s tourism sector adapt to the “new normal” following the disruption caused by COVID-19.

During the second day of the Senate Committee of the Whole hearing on Wednesday (May 20), the senator urged the Department of Tourism (DOT) to come up with a clear set of guidelines for the tourism industry, which should be in line with national and global health standards.

“The reality is, in order to get travelers and tourists to have confidence in our country, our health policies on COVID-related exposures should be consistent with what is set worldwide,” Cayetano said.

The senator also asked the DOT to start finalizing the guidelines for local travels. She said any best practices we intend to replicate from other countries should be properly evaluated to make sure they are effective and suitable in the Philippine context.

“There are practices out there that may be best for one country but not necessarily for ours. So we would like to know very specifically where any recommendation would come from so that we can assess. I know the pressure for our tourism sector to open up is there. I offer my support, but we also want to ensure that we keep safety in mind,” Cayetano noted.

“Maybe [the DOT] can identify the safe activities to do [in particular tourist destinations]. You may come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes, whether it’s 60 or 180 days from now, we can be more ready and we don’t have to debate on it anymore,” she added.

As a response, DOT Undersecretary Art Boncato Jr. said the agency is set to roll out “omnibus revised tourism standards anchored on new normal standards, as espoused by the Department of Health and the World Health Organization, and also anchored on best practices all around the world.”

This covers areas of accommodation, tourist transport, restaurants, hotels, and tour guides, among others. The common themes expected to be included in the standards are protocols on social distancing, deep sanitation, protective gear, as well as investments of tourism stakeholders in health plans both for their employees and their guests.

In terms of accommodation, the DOT said it plans to mandate a maximum of double occupancy for all hotels. Restaurants, meanwhile, will be mandated to have a 50-percent occupancy for dine-in operations, Usec. Boncato said.

Sen. Pia Cayetano to DOT: “Come up with strict guidelines early on so that when the time comes [to open up tourism], we will be ready.”
File photo (2019): Senator Pia S. Cayetano meets with displaced workers of Boracay following the 6-month rehabilitation of the island, considered as the top draw of Philippine tourism.

Pia files resolution to declare ‘SDGs decade of action’

Let’s make the 2020s a Decade of Action for Sustainability!

To affirm the country’s commitment to the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed a resolution declaring the year 2020 as the start of the “SDGs Decade of Action.”

The senator filed Senate Resolution No. 308 on Wednesday (January 29), with the goal of ushering in a decade of collective, ambitious action to deliver the country’s sustainable targets by the year 2030.

“Five years since we adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we remain fully committed to integrate the SDGs into our national development plans and policies,” said Cayetano, who chairs the newly created Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking.

The panel is primarily tasked to monitor and guide government efforts towards attaining the 17 interconnected Global Goals through strategic thinking, multi-disciplinary, and multi-sectoral approach.

“While progress has been achieved in some areas through the efforts of both the government and the private sector, the country still has a long way to go in achieving the SDGs by 2030, given the current issues arising in health, education, agriculture, environment, equality, peace and justice, among others,” Cayetano’s resolution read.

It added that this signals the need to “accelerate sustainable, ambitious and multi-sectoral solutions” towards achieving all the 17 goals by 2030.

“This resolution declaring the 2020s our Decade of Action, along with the collective efforts we have been making and are yet to make towards sustainability, honors the global compact we made five years ago,” Cayetano stressed.

“Our ultimate goal is to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all, where nobody is left behind,” she added. #

Our ultimate goal is to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

 

Pia to industries: Make eco-friendly alternatives available to consumers

Senator Pia S. Cayetano today said industries in the country should be persuaded to innovate into producing more eco-friendly products and packaging to encourage sustainable consumption among consumers, and help achieve the country’s zero waste goals.

Such is the main takeaway of Cayetano, chair of the Senate Committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking, from the panel’s third public hearing on Wednesday (January 22).

Following through on the committee’s earlier hearing that focused on Goal 12 of the SDGs, Cayetano led another discussion with government agencies and civil society members to track the country’s action plan towards sustainable consumption and production.

Goal 12 of the SDGs calls on nations to ensure sustainable consumption and production (SCP) patterns, particularly through the promotion of consumer information and education for sustainable development and lifestyles.

Also discussed in the hearing were the best practices being implemented towards SCP at the national and the local level.

While stressing the importance of influencing consumer behavior to encourage waste reduction, Cayetano said industry manufacturers carry the bigger responsibility of shifting towards more sustainable and eco-friendly alternatives for their products.

“How do we push producers to innovate? That’s one of the challenges we have. If we want citizens to shift to more sustainable products, how can they [do so] if they are [presented] with [products that] are not sustainable?” she pointed out.

“Many young people are so game to embrace new sustainable practices. But what kind of change will we make if the producers themselves refuse to adjust their mindset,” she added.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) also cited during the hearing that a change in the behavior of both consumers and producers is necessary for sustainable waste reduction. This, according to the agency, can be done by conducting public education campaigns on SCP.

In addition, Cayetano stressed the importance of codifying and harmonizing the best practices towards SCP, following the lead of local communities that are already implementing sound policies on sustainability.

“We have isolated provisions on the efficient use of resources per area of life; but as regulators and lawmakers, we are having difficulty following up and assessing those provisions. It’s difficult to look at the overall picture because [our plans] are not yet harmonized. Hopefully, the cities and communities can help us put it all together,” the senator said.

“I also hope that our committee can make it easy to codify these best practices towards SCP, which other communities can follow and prioritize,” she added, as she expressed support for NEDA’s intention to come up with a budget codification for certain priority SDGs in the next six months.

Furthermore, the concept of zero waste management was also among the highlights of the panels’ discussion on SCP.

Representatives from the Mother Earth Foundation and Ecowaste Coalition particularly stressed that achieving zero waste requires community responsibility – through reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting wastes – as well as industrial responsibility – through re-designing and shifting into alternative, sustainable products.

Cauayan, Isabela Mayor Bernard Dy was also invited as a resource person in the hearing, where he shared the city’s best practices on localizing SDGs through various sustainable initiatives like the Cauayan City Food Bank and the conceptualization of e-vehicles in their community, among others.#

Sen. Pia S. Cayetano leads the Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking’s third public discussion on the country’s action plan towards sustainable consumption and production, which forms part of the Philippines’ commitment to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

 

Senator Pia S. Cayetano with Mayor Bernard Dy, who has been acknowledged for his innovative efforts to integrate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the programs of the local government of Cauayan City, Isabela.
Senator Pia S. Cayetano receives a copy of ‘The Zero Waste Solution’ book from the author himself, renowned sustainable communities advocate, Prof. Paul Connett.

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)