Philippines

Congress passes groundbreaking bill protecting children hit by disasters

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The Philippines is now one step closer to enacting the ‘Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act’ after the Senate and House of Representatives passed the groundbreaking bill.

The landmark legislation– which is first of its kind in Asia—will create a national program that will provide enhanced protection and relief assistance to millions of Filipino children affected by calamities.

Save the Children Country Director Ned Olney said:

“The approval of the bill by both the Senate and the House of Representatives is a remarkable achievement, especially for millions of Filipino children. With this legislation, we can aspire to dramatically reduce childhood mortality and improve the recovery times for families and communities that have been affected by disasters."

In 2015 alone, Save the Children estimates that 1.3 million Filipino children have been affected by tropical cyclones. Super Typhoon Yolanda alone dramatically disrupted the lives of 6 million children across central Philippines.

“This bill is a legacy for all those local governments, civil society organizations, and the children and their families that supported it. We also thank the champions of this bill in Senate and House of Representatives.”

Sen. Pia Cayetano, head of Senate Committee on Women, Family Relations and Gender Equality, in her sponsorship Speech in the Senate said: "Through the years, we have taken measures to increase preparedness and enhance responsiveness to these situations. However, children remain to be one of the most vulnerable sectors during such disasters. We must take steps in order to protect them and ensure that their fundamental rights are upheld, and this proposed bill is a significant stride towards that goal."

Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, child rights advocate and principal author of the bill said, “Thousands of children died during Typhoon Yolanda while those who survived have experienced psychosocial trauma and difficulties in evacuation centers, and are even exploited and abused due to lack of social protection.These traumas and sufferings can be avoided or mitigated by establishing clear policies and principles to protect the children in times of calamity and disaster."

Ola Almgren, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator also expressed support for the bill: "For the first time in the Philippines and in Asia, the specific needs and fundamental rights of children affected by disasters and emergencies will be addressed by a specific law. In this age of increasing occurrence of natural disasters, we will continue our support of the Government and the people of the Philippines to build safer and more resilient communities with children at the center of our attention."

Save the Children, which has supported the bill since 2014 in aftermath of typhoon Yolanda, says that once enacted into law, the bill would require the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and other national agencies to enhance services related to monitoring and protection of children vulnerable to and affected by disasters. These include improved family tracing for unaccompanied minors, separate data collection to identify children, child-focused emergency trainings and limiting use of schools as evacuation centers so that children could quickly resume their classes.

Notes to the Editor

The bill was introduced in the House of Representative in September 2014 by Rep. Susan Yap (Tarlac, 2nd District), child rights advocate and author of several legislation on child protection, after a series of workshops conducted by the House Committee on Welfare of Children prompted by the findings of Save the Children and other organizations' consultation with child survivors in the aftermath of Yolanda.

After the swift approval of the bill by the Committee chaired by Rep. Aurora Cerilles and the House of Representatives, it was transmitted to the Senate in January 2015.

On 1 February 2016, the Senate approved the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act. The Senate version was then concurred by the House of Representatives the next day, February 2, 2016.

About Save the Children

Save the Children Philippines is part of the global Save the Children movement working in over 120 countries.

Present in the country for over three decades, Save the Children delivers programs for Filipino children which gives them a better education and easier access to healthcare, supports them during emergencies while also educating communities on disaster preparedness.

We have been responding to a number of emergencies across the country in the past years. Save the Children mounted large-scale emergency responses to typhoons Yolanda (2013), Pablo (2012) and Sendong in 2012.

For interviews with spokespersons from Save the Children, please call National Media Manager April Sumaylo at+639173011240 or email april.sumaylo@savethechildren.org

For interviews with spokespersons from the office of Sen. Pia Cayetano, please call Mike Ac-ac +639178335000

For interviews with spokespersons from the office of Rep. Susan Yap, please call Ms. Analyn Monis +63998999811

For interviews with spokespersons from the office of Ola Almgren, United Nations Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator, please call Madoka Koide at +63 9175974722 or email koide@un.org