Speech of Senator Pia S. Cayetano before the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP)
Seda Hotel, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City
Good afternoon to everyone. Welcome to our lovely city of Taguig. I am so happy to welcome you here on behalf of our Mayor, your friend, Lani Cayetano, on behalf of my brother, Alan, and the rest of the people of Taguig. And I am so excited to speak to you kasi ang topic niyo is Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It’s Women’s Month, so syempre kasama din ang usapang kababaihan, empowerment. So I know for many years, nandoon naman ang concept ng inclusivity, right? And that would include women, persons with disabilities, and so on and so forth. Alam na natin yun. But I’d like to emphasize, especially because it’s Women’s Month, that inclusivity does not mean na may one representative, because malulunod pa rin ang boses ng isa sa boses ng marami. Syempre, maganda ang may boses, right? Maganda yan. Pero like me, napaos na ako, literally paos ako ngayon. Because kung nag-iisa din ang boses mo, mahirap din.
So if you truly want inclusivity, we’re also talking about numbers, we are also talking about, in the lingo of the millennials, or the X-gen, Y-gen, hindi ko na masundan, ano yung vibe? Ano ba yung vibe kapag nagmi-meeting, di ba? Is it truly inclusive? So that’s one thing I’d like to point out to all of you. It should not just be a statement. It should be a lifestyle. Kapag sinabing inclusive, totoo talaga yun, napapakinggan talaga ang boses ng kababaihan.
I’ll give you an example. Quite a few years ago, when I was new in the Senate, and I started in 2004, 38 years old, I was one of four senators. Kasama ko si Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Kapag nagsalita si Tita Miriam, nakikinig naman lahat, correct? Not only was she a senator who already commanded the respect of people, pero yung ability n’ya magsalita. And she will not hesitate to call you a ‘one-celled amoeba.’
So she gains people’s attention and respect, no doubt about that. But I was a 38-year-old new senator and when I stood up to talk about breastfeeding, tumatawa ang ibang colleagues ko na lalaki. For them, it’s a sexual connotation of a woman’s breasts, and breastfeeding. And I was so embarrassed kasi that is natural eh, and advocate ako ng breastfeeding. Tapos tumatawa sila, ganyan, ‘uy pare, breastfeeding daw, gusto mong breasts, no?’ Gumaganon sila. And that is not appropriate especially in the Senate hall, di ba?
Now, the good news is, over the generations, it’s been almost 20 years since I became a senator, enlightened ang mga kasama ko ngayon. Hindi nila gagawin yun. Kung gawin man nila yun, bahala sila kung saan nila gagawin yun, but not in my presence, not in the Senate floor. Kasi it’s not funny, it’s really not funny. Of course, I cannot control what they do outside. But I make it known na let’s talk about this in a serious manner. The ability of a woman to continue her role as a mother, which includes breastfeeding, in the workplace. Huwag niyo naman pagtawanan, kasi nadi-distract ako sa speech ko, nadi-distract din ang mga nakikinig sa akin kasi ginagawa niyong joke. So hindi na nangyayari yun. So we’ve come a long way, di ba?
And I know, ladies, sometimes in the interest of makisama, pati tayo makikitawa. But it doesn’t help our cause. I am not saying na para tayong madre, or para naman tayong close-minded, but there is a time for laughter and there is a time to be serious. And when we talk about gender issues, that should be a serious matter.
So like I said, I am happy, I am just recounting yung mga naging experience ko in the past, na mahirap man pag-usapan ito, dahil nga hindi masyadong naiintindihan. And again, I am also happy that the younger generation of men are more hands-on fathers. Like our Mayor Mike Rama (of Cebu City), may dala pang anak dito. Nakakatuwa talaga. So that helps us.
And I remember telling young women I meet, whether councilor sila, mayor sila, I tell them, never hesitate, never be ashamed that you are a mother. If you have to say, ‘sandali lang kasi ang anak ko may appointment sa doktor, may anak akong may sakit,’ hindi naman dapat tinatago yun, eh. Talagang nangyayari yun. Kung nanay ka, wala namang ibang gagawa nun. And what we want is that the men step up para pwedeng sabihin ni Mayora, ay okay na ako kasi ang asawa ko ang magdadala ng anak ko sa doktor, di ba? Yan ang gusto natin marinig. Ay yung anak ko nagkaproblema sa school pero okay lang kasi hands-on naman ang tatay niya. Siya naman ang pupunta. That’s what we want to hear. Yan ang totoong gender partnership.
So shift na ako ngayon ng topic ko. I used the women’s issue because that is an SDG in itself, gender equality [SDG 5]. I use that now as an example because it’s Women’s Month. It’s my job to talk about it. But what I want to emphasize to all of you is you cannot take these individual SDGs separately. It needs to be discussed holistically.
And thus, my recommendation for every city is that you also have a committee on SDGs. Like in the Senate, it’s one of the first in the world to have a Senate Committee on SDGs, Innovation, and Futures Thinking. Nung nag-attend ako ng conference sa Finland, pero online lang ako nag-attend, sinabi nga na, i-differentiate natin. Kasi nga yung ibang nag-attend doon, ang kanilang committee is actually environment. But sustainability goes beyond environment. Pero ang thinking kasi because in the past, kapag sinabing alagaan natin ang environment natin, yun ang sustainability.
But true sustainability encompasses everything. On gender, on education, on health. Lahat ng policies natin, sustainable dapat. So my recommendation, that you have a sustainability or an SDG committee, is because you’d want a separate group that will look at all the programs in the city with the lens of sustainability. And idadagdag ko na rin doon, futures thinking, with the lens towards the future.
So, example, kunyari, street widening. Kasi yung bill ko, advocate ako for active mobility. What that means is we use our own body to get from one place to another. Lakad, bisikleta, pwede rin padyak scooter, but we use our own body. That is active mobility. It solves a couple of things at the same time, better health kasi naglalakad… less pollution dahil imbes na may diesel lumalabas naglalakad ka, ang lalabas lang dyan pawis, and that is healthy, that is normal. But it requires planning. Hindi ka naman basta-basta pwede, and I think Mayor Rama, nagka-problem kayo? It might have been, before pa baka Vice pa lang kayo noon. Naalala mo nagkaroon ng movement din in Cebu, and medyo umalma din talaga if it’s not well planned, magkakagulo din talaga. It’s like the strike that we’re having now with the jeepneys, di ba? It’s a great idea for me to modernize. But you cannot do that overnight. You cannot do that and leave people behind. You cannot do that, and you, city mayors and officials know that more than the national government. Alam niyo yan, eh. Dahil kayo ang kumakausap sa lahat ng constituents niyo. Alam niyo yan.
It does not mean na huwag na tayo mag-modernize. No. That’s a defeatist attitude. You do not say no. You will continue but you will not leave anyone behind. So kung magmo-modernize, help them modernize, educate them, provide them with sufficient funding. Yung nangyari naman dito sa jeepney, I don’t know how affected kayo in the provinces are, P2 million ang vehicle na gustong ipabili sa kanila, ang subsidy P160,000. Kawawa naman. Saan naman nila dudukutin ang P1.8 million na kulang doon? Saan nila dudukutin yun. Kahit naman may kayang tao, mag-aabala din kung paano dudukutin yun. Buti kung may credit line ka sa bangko, di ba? So that is not a sustainable solution. Right?
Now if you say, gumamit naman sila ng futures thinking, kasi gusto mag-modernize. Hindi futures thinking yun, because if you leave behind a certain population, that’s not futures thinking. That’s not responsible.
So futures thinking requires that you predict all the possible outcomes. How difficult would it be to predict na magsa-strike yan kapag yan ang ginawa n’yo? So if you have a separate committee on sustainable development and futures thinking, it’s their job to report, let’s say nagsalita ang gender committee, ang infra committee, yung health committee, it’s their job now to say, angganda niyan, in a perfect society, angganda ma-achieve niyan. But in our society, ito ang mga possible outcomes, ito aangal, ito budget constraints, ito ang impact sa ibang sector in our society, and so on and so forth.
That’s why I love futures thinking. My team is continually learning more to always think that way, to look at every policy I will make with the lens of futures thinking and sustainability. It’s like when we react, kung reactive tayo sa mga emergency and natural calamities, right? Natuto na tayo by now di ba? Sana hindi tayo reactive. Sana nag-prepare tayo. So that ang response natin eh hindi lang on the day that the calamity hits. Nangyari dapat ang response natin before pa. Inaabangan na natin. Nagulat pa ba tayo na we are in a typhoon-stricken area? Wala eh, doon tayo, eh. Dito tayo pinanganak sa bansang ito. This is what it is. So kung hindi natin i-evacuate, slowly and responsibly ang mga nakatira sa danger zones, it’s just a matter of time na tatamaan sila. So that is what I mean by always looking at issues with the eyes of the futures thinking lens.
And now, a few quick examples I want to give you sa sustainability other than gender, health. So binanggit ko na ang mobility. By using active mobility, agad-agad you will be able to have healthier people because walking is already considered as one of the best forms of exercise. A lot of people come to me and say, ‘Senator, paano ka nagra-run, paano mo nagagawa yun, nagra-run ka ng 21km, 42km, paano?’ So I can explain. The next question is, ‘paano ko gagawin?’ Sabi ko first of all, interesado ka ba, kasi if running is not your passion and you tried it and it doesn’t work for you, then by all means, walk. You don’t have to be a runner to be fit. Walking is very good. As you get older, better pa nga si walking kasi less harmful on the joints and kapag nadapa ka, mas maliit ang chances na madapa ka, naglalakad ka. So wala naman pressure yun. The point is, keep moving. Be active. So yung mga zumba-zumba na yan, okay yan. Lahat yan very good yan.
But when I speak of health, and I know you have a speaker later on, he is a medical doctor from Singapore and his advocacy is a tobacco-free future. I’ve worked with him, we’ve invited him to Taguig City, and that is also a strong advocacy of mine. Because the latest tobacco product is the vapes and e-cigarettes. And you need to know that most of the e-cigarettes and vapes are being sold by tobacco companies also. So meron silang tagline na smoke-free generation, something like that, smoke-free world. Kasi gusto nilang palabasin na mas healthy ang vapes and e-cigarettes. Let me tell you this: there is no conclusive evidence that it is safer. None. none. I would be the first to advocate a safer product, okay, if I have the evidence coming from the scientific community, that it is in fact safer. Wala pa… Kapag nakakarinig kayo ng research, tingnan n’y kung scientific community yun, dapat yun peer-validated. Hindi lang isang doktor na binabayaran ng tobacco company. Hindi peer-validated yun. Bias n’ya yun. But if you look at peer-validated studies, there is in fact evidence that [vaping] might be more harmful than cigarette smoking. So hinay-hinay lang. Preno-preno lang before we endorse or advocate or are less strict with these new products. Kung strict tayo sa tobacco, strict din tayo dito sa bagong products, because we do not know if it is in fact healthier.
Remember, historically…you just Google tobacco ads of the 1950s and 60s, aba doktor pa ang nag-eendorse [ng sigarilyo]. In the 1950s and 1960s, I think up to the 1970s pa. In fact sabi pa doon, ‘Camel is the most smoked cigarette brand of doctors.’ Tingnan n’yo naman yan. Who in the world now will allow that kind of advertising? Wala di ba, sa cigarettes. But they are slowly trying to do the same for those vapes and e-cigarettes. Same lang. Same playlist, na ni-ressurect after 50 plus years. So be careful because there was a time, pre-pandemic, na umikot na yan pumupunta sa mga cities, asking the cities to pass an ordinance on this smoke-free tagline. Nung binasa ko naman ang ordinance, ang ibig sabihin pala nila is hindi tobacco, pero yes to vapes. Huwag kayong papayag doon. Si JUULS nga, the brand JUULS, na-ban yan sa States kaya lang nilalaban nila sa Supreme Court. Na-ban kasi ang tina-target nila is bata. Payag ba kayo noon? A generation of addicted young people? So kung ano ang ginagastos ng gobyerno, lahat kayo naranasan n’yong pinipilahan ng constituents niyo, araw-araw, linggo-linggo, because nangangailangan ng tulong. Wala naman, it’s our job to help, pero kung tayo ay complicit kung bakit sila nagkasakit, kasalanan n’yo na yan, bakit kayo pumayag? Hindi n’yo nirendahan, hindi n’yo tinigilan ang mga bad habits. So stop it while we still can. Be true advocates for good health. Anyway, I’ll end that topic now. You can call my office anytime for more materials. We’re very welcome to help.
The last example I want to give you, is adoption and foster care. That’s another issue very close to my heart. So, DSWD is now spending billions and billions of pesos for assistance, right? It’s basically financial assistance for those who have less in life, para makaangat sila. I have no problem there. My problem is the resources of DSWD is all in that area, yung maibigay ang mga ayuda. Kapag nagkaroon ng calamity, mabigay ang ayuda. Again, no problem per se. But, on a day-to-day basis, we have neglected children, neglected and abused in their own homes. Their community, if it’s a small community, does not have the means or is not trained on how to take care of these children who are neglected in their own homes. Why are they neglected? Usually, it’s poverty. The parents could still both be there pero hirap na hirap ang buhay. Or they only have one parent, single mom or single dad. Wala talaga ang isang parent sa buhay nila. Or, yung isang parent nasa buhay nila or nasa abroad, or nasa city, nagtatrabaho. The point is, isa lang ang magulang. And the worse case is, wala talagang magulang. Iniwan lang sa kapitbahay, maraming ganyan. And they could be neglected, maybe they have a loving kapitbahay taking care of them, but in some cases, they don’t.
DSWD was not doing enough about that, and I hope, with our new Secretary, we can ensure that these children get the attention that they deserve. Kasi kapag inalagaan mo yan, yan ang future productive citizen of the Philippines, future contributor sa taxes at sa economic growth ng inyong mga city, correct? Would you rather they be that or the future criminals of your city? No brainer, you want them to be the productive member of society in your community, correct? So alagaan natin habang bata pa lang. It’s not enough na libreng education. Paano kung hindi siya pumapasok? Paano pag-uwi niya binubugbog siya? Paano pag-uwi niya, wala man lang magsasabing, ‘good job, son, good job, daughter.’ Wala. Most of us are blessed, and I am extremely blessed with wonderful parents. For those of you who knew my father or at least heard of him, sobrang istrikto yun pero also sobrang loving. But not everyone has the blessing of that kind of father. And the mother I had was a preschool teacher. So sobrang nurturing na, anggaling pa magbigay ng at-home learning activities. So itong mga batang ito, and pwede ngang hindi rin neglectful ang parents, pero wala naman alam na ang early childhood education is the most important. Ididiin ko yan sa inyo, ha? Early childhood is the most important. I-convert na natin itong mga daycare natin as genuine preschool of DepEd, okay? I am part of the EDCOM and we are looking into all of this now. Because ang gusto natin nagma-man ng ating daycare are qualified educators. Because that is the window of opportunity to make these children explorers of the world. Interested silang matuto ang concept ng division, multiplication. Hindi sila takot matuto. They are willing to take chances. Kids who have been exposed to challenges but with guidance become very willing to learn. Hindi yung takot matuto kasi sasampalin, papagalitan, that’s not the way you nurture a child.
So I can go on and on about these interventions. But I’ll leave it at that. My hope is you become thirsty to keep finding out what are the best solutions for our children and for our cities. And I will end by saying my office is always welcome. Alam n’yo naman passionate ako sa sports, so kung makakapagdala din ako ng programs sa mga cities niyo, I would love to do that. I will bring qualified coaches so they can teach your PE teachers, not just the skill in different sports, but also how to nurture these young people, these kids who, as I said, can be future leaders, in the business community, in the government. But at the very least, they will be responsible citizens of your cities and of our country.
So that’s our goal and thank you so much for having me, I hope to stay in touch with all of you. God bless. #