By Tricia Aquino | InterAksyon
The Children's rights group Save the Children urged the Senate on Monday to work quickly after it approved on second reading the Children's Emergency Relief and Protection Act.
The legislation is aimed at creating a single national emergency preparedness and response plan for children.
In a press statement, Save the Children country director Ned Olney said that it could no longer be "business as usual" given that the Philippines is hit by 20 deadly typhoons annually, putting millions of children at risk "every single time."
"We urge the Senate to fast-track the passage of the bill," he said. "It is critical that this landmark legislation gets approved before the Congress adjourns again, so that processes are laid out for the upcoming typhoon season. At the minimum, we should be able to know for sure how many children have been affected, but at this point this is not in place."
Olney had previously told InterAksyon.com that, after the proposed law's enactment, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Office of Civil Defense would initiate a planning process that also involves other relevant agencies, such as the police, military, Department of Education, Department of Health, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
It would also put in place a system to monitor and, thus, prevent the trafficking of children, as well as instances of child labor.
Olney also explained that there would be tracing of unaccompanied minors so that children who had been separated from their families during the disaster would be reunited with them.
As schools were being used as evacuation centers after disasters, the bill tasks the local government to engage relevant stakeholders in a transparent dialogue to find out if there are other options for shelter.
During its interviews with the child-survivors of super typhoon Yolanda, Save the Children found that many of their families' civil documents had been destroyed, which was why the bill would create a way to reconstitute these documents after disasters.
The international aid group spurred the authorship of the bill when it came out with the report "After Yolanda: What Children Think, Need and Recommend," together with the child-survivors and other organizations.
Tarlac 2nd District Representative Susan Yap filed the bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives on third reading last year. It had over 70 co-authors, while, at the Senate, it was co-authored by Senators Bam Aquino, Pia Cayetano, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, TG Guingona, Loren Legarda, Bongbong Marcos, Ralph Recto, Bong Revilla, Tito Sotto, and Cynthia Villar.
Olney praised the Senate for approving the bill on second reading Monday, and singled out Cayetano, the head of the Committee on Women, Family Relations and Gender Equality, for "facilitating the speedy approval of the bill."
"However, we continue to urge the Senate to move this forward to third reading approval and to House of Representatives so that it can finally be enacted into law," Olney said.
Children light candles in Tacloban City on the second anniversary of super typhoon Yolanda.