Pia calls for ‘plastics-free’ Senate

Consistent with the celebration of ‘Plastic-Free July,’ Senator Pia S. Cayetano has called on the Senate to do its share in supporting the global movement to ditch single-use plastics and reduce plastic pollution.

In a brief manifestation during Monday’s session (July 29), Cayetano reiterated her plastics-free advocacy by urging fellow senators not to contribute to the generation of plastic wastes in the country. 

She enjoined her colleagues to adopt a policy of prohibiting PET bottles in plenary or during Senate hearings. 

As an alternative to plastic, the senator had bamboo tumblers distributed to her colleagues in the session hall. 

This was not the first time that Cayetano made an appeal to the Senate to be more environment-conscious in the conduct of its duties.

In 2012, Cayetano wrote a letter to the Senate Secretariat suggesting that water dispensers be set up in the Senate halls, instead of distributing bottled water during session and public hearings. 

“This was adopted at that time, but I don’t really know what happened in the (last) Congress because I wasn’t here. So may I propose that we adopt it once again, especially since it is July, which is No-Plastic Month,” Cayetano told her colleagues. 

“To help support my colleagues in shifting to a more sustainable way of drinking water or whatever beverage you prefer, I am giving all of you bamboo tumblers, which you can use in lieu of single-use plastics,” she added.

In 2011, Cayetano also requested the establishment of a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) and enforce a ban on plastic bags within the institution’s premises. This resulted in a 50-percent reduction in the solid wastes generated by the Senate during that year.#

Senator Pia Cayetano asks the Senate to reduce its plastic waste, starting with ditching the practice of distributing PET bottled water during hearings and sessions.
With Senator Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa holding up the reusable bamboo tumblers that Senator Pia Cayetano gave out to her colleagues in lieu of plastic bottled water distributed in plenary.

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 seeks unified agency to respond to disasters

Building on the country’s progress to respond to both natural and human-made calamities, Senator Pia S. Cayetano filed a bill seeking to merge the functions of different agencies involved in disaster risk reduction and management to form the Department of Disaster Resilience (DDR).

She said that while the current law (Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act or RA 10121) coordinated the efforts of various agencies on disaster risk reduction, there remains a need to establish a single, accountable agency in charge of responding to disasters. 

Cayetano’s proposed “Department of Disaster Resilience Act” mandates a sole government department to take over the policy-making, coordination, and monitoring functions of the present ad hoc inter-agency council on disaster risk reduction and management. 

In stressing the need for a separate agency for disaster resilience, Cayetano cited that the Word Risk Index ranks the Philippines third among nations with the highest risk from disasters, next to Vanuatu and Tonga.

“Owing to our geographical and natural features, the Philippines is inherently prone to disasters, both natural and human-made. And more so in the era of climate change, where extreme weather conditions have become the new normal and reality for many Filipinos,” Cayetano pointed out. 

The bill also aims to implement the principles of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework, and the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 in addressing disaster risks and climate change. 

The proposed DDR will be equipped with bureaus specifically tasked to deal with disaster prevention and mitigation, preparedness, and humanitarian and disaster responses.

The applicable powers, funds and appropriations of existing government agencies from different departments will then be transferred to the DDR. 

These agencies include the Office of Civil Defense (DND), Climate Change Office, Geo-Hazard Assessment and Engineering Geology Section of the Mines and Geoscience Bureau (DENR), Health and Emergency Bureau (DOH), Disaster Response Assistance and Management Bureau (DSWD), and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). Meanwhile, PAGASA and PHIVOLCS will be attached agencies of the DDR. 

Cayetano is the author of the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act (Republic Act No. 10821), which ensures attention and assistance to children before, during, and after disasters. She also introduced gender provisions in RA 10121, including the promotion of breastfeeding, and the establishment of safe spaces for mothers and children in evacuation centers. #

The Philippines is the third country most vulnerable to disasters according to the World Risk Index report.
Extreme weather conditions and more frequent disasters caused by climate change require a unified and comprehensive response from the government.
In this file photo, then Deputy Speaker interacts with young evacuees at a disaster relief center in Navotas City. Joining her is Mayor John Rey Tiangco. (November, 2018)

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)

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: Better intervention needed for child offenders

House Deputy Speaker Pia S. Cayetano is open to amending the Juvenile Justice and Welfare Act of 2006, on the condition that alternative methods of intervention, other than criminal penalty, would be considered in holding child offenders accountable.

Cayetano made the statement during an event at the Batangas State University – Lipa Campus on Thursday, where she was asked about her stand on proposals to lower the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility (MACR) in the country, which is currently 15 years old. A staunch advocate of the Filipino family and children’s welfare, the congresswoman responded by saying she supports calls to amend the 2006 measure, stressing that the gaps in the existing law has become a “fundamental problem” that needs to be addressed.

“I have a fundamental problem with the law. Kaya open ako sa amendment. The problem with things now is that a lot of criminal syndicates are taking advantage of young children. Ang problema doon sa current na batas natin, may nakalagay doon na ‘pag nalaman na iyong batang iyon is under 15 years old, kailangan ibalik siya kaagad sa parents,” Cayetano cited.

The Taguig representative said a comprehensive policy should be implemented by the government to prevent criminal syndicates from taking advantage of such gaps in the law and exploiting young children to mobilize their criminal activities. Cayetano said more should be done to protect the youth from a life of crime, other than just lowering the MACR to nine years old or 12 years old.

She said the focus should be on ensuring that every child receives the proper support and guidance s/he can get from a “loving family.” “It’s not just a matter of 12 years old, 15 years old. It’s a matter of what kind of support every child has, such that they can grow up knowing what is right and what is wrong. If you do wrong, may kaparusahan, but it doesn’t have to be a criminal penalty,” she noted.

The congresswoman, who was the principal author and sponsor of the Foster Care Act of 2012 (Republic Act 10165), said key factors affecting a child’s growth, including family life and home environment, should first be considered before determining which interventions are most effective in dealing with children in conflict with the law.

“In the first place, iyong mga batang nagagamit ng mga sindikato, my question is, ano kaya ang family life nila? May parents ba siya na nagmamahal sa kanya, na nagtuturo sa kanya ng right or wrong? There’s a big chance na may problem doon sa family. We have to understand these fundamental issues that affect children so we can decide what is the best kind of intervention for them. That is, to me, the bigger problem,” Cayetano concluded.#

Photo: Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano with officials, faculty and students of Batangas State university (Lipa City campus)