Pia’s first ten bills seek sustainability, education, future-proofing PH

Ensuring the sustainability of vital government programs, raising the level of education of the youth to become globally competitive, and future-proofing the Philippines for domestic and external shocks were the overarching themes of the first ten bills filed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in the 19th Congress.

Cayetano, who chaired the Senate’s very first committee on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Innovation, and Futures Thinking in the previous 18th Congress, bared the list of her top ten measures for the new Congress, which officially opens session on July 25, as follows:

  1. Education Roadmap Act
  2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention Act
  3. Sustainability-Based Budgeting Act
  4. Sports Excellence Roadmap Act
  5. Increasing the Minimum Age of Access to Tobacco at 21 Years Old Act
  6. Water Sustainability Act
  7. Philippine Nursing Act amendments
  8. Sustainable Cities and Communities Act
  9. Safe Pathways Network Act
  10. Sustainable Transportation Act

“These bills are forward-looking and aim to prepare our nation better for the challenges ahead, while never losing sight of our sustainable development goals,” Cayetano explained, as she noted how the country faces the confluence of global public health and socio-economic crises.

“The health measures were drawn from our hard-earned lessons in the last two years in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need to further strengthen our healthcare system to provide services for our people,” she added.

She said that the proposed Education Roadmap Act aims to produce Filipino graduates who are well-rounded and competitive, amid the rapidly changing demands of industries and the knowledge-based global economy.

“Aside from acquiring the so-called ‘four Cs’ of 21st Century skills – namely, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity – this bill is primarily aimed to help our students regain our edge in English proficiency, which we are fast losing,” she emphasized.

“English proficiency is a vital skill that has made Filipino workers and professionals in demand abroad, and has prompted multinational companies to invest heavily in the country’s IT-Business Process Management industry (IT-BPM),” she noted.

For the health sector, Cayetano emphasized legislation on two fronts: strengthening our healthcare structure, and sustaining support for our medical frontliners, particularly our nurses, who comprise the backbone of our health system.

It is for these reasons that Cayetano filed the bill establishing the country’s own Center for Disease Control and Prevention or PH CDC, and proposed amendments to the Philippine Nursing Act.

To recall, it was Cayetano who principally sponsored RA 9711, the 2009 law that established the Philippines’ own Food and Drug Administration, or PH FDA – which currently plays a key role in the government’s pandemic response.

Similarly, she is pushing for the establishment of the PH CDC as the Department of Health’s lead agency for the early detection of emerging diseases, and to formulate response measures for public health emergencies.

Recognizing the need to support the needs and development of the country’s nursing professionals, Cayetano filed a bill amending the Philippine Nursing Act to provide nurses with opportunities for continuing education and professional growth, as well as recognition and commensurate compensation for their specialized areas of work.

In addition, the senator has filed a measure pegging at 21 years old the minimum age of access to cigarettes and tobacco products.

“This will protect the health and wellbeing of the youth, and will make our policy consistent with the current minimum age of access to vapes and e-cigarettes at 21 under the Sin Tax Law of 2020, or RA 11467,” the senator noted.

Senator Cayetano wants sustainability to be the guiding framework in the budget programs of both the national government and local government units (LGUs), in the planning, development, and integration of cities and communities, in reorienting vital services like mass transportation and infrastructure, and in efficiently managing the country’s water resources.

To this end, Cayetano filed the following related measures: the Sustainability-Based Budgeting Act; Water Sustainability Act; Sustainable Cities and Communities Act; Sustainable Transportation Act; and lastly, the Safe Pathways Act – which seeks to develop a national network of bicycle lanes and ‘slow streets’ to promote and ensure the safety of cycling, walking, and the use of alternative modes of mobility.

Finally, Senator Pia, together with her brother, returning Senator Alan Cayetano, have jointly authored a measure that applies the same principles of sustainability and futures thinking in the development of Philippine Sports.

The Cayetanos’ co-authored bill, the Sports Excellence Roadmap Act, aims to lay down a 20-year road map to produce elite world-class athletes, which will be anchored on a solid grassroots program, as well as sustained training, exposure, and support for our national athletes and chosen focus sports. #

Senator Pia Cayetano
Ensuring the sustainability of vital government programs, raising the level of education of the youth, and future-proofing the Philippines for domestic and external shocks were the overarching themes of the first ten bills filed by Senator Pia S. Cayetano in the 19th Congress.

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.