Philippines: DSWD Sec. Taguiwalo welcomes stronger laws on disaster response through the ‘Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act’

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QUEZON CITY, Feb. 28 - Following the recent disasters that struck the country last year and the first months of 2017, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo reiterated the standing need for all national and local government offices to provide adequate and timely response  and ensure the safety of civilians, especially children who are particularly vulnerable during calamities and emergency situations.

“Situations such as disasters, calamities, armed conflicts and other civil disturbances increase the vulnerability of children to various forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty and violence. The lack of proper implementation of policies and programs for children during emergency situations has grave effects on the normal development of children, and may have lasting repercussions that can last into their adulthood,” the Secretary said.

Recognizing the need to strengthen and improve the implementation of disaster risk reduction and management (DRRM) laws and policies, the Department will lead the signing of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act (RA) No. 10821 or the ‘Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act’ this February 28, 2017 at the DSWD New Auditorium.

RA 10821, which was signed on May 18, 2016, mandates national and local government agencies to establish and implement a Comprehensive Emergency Program that will prioritize the protection of children and pregnant and lactating mothers during and after emergencies and disaster situations.

The law features stronger measures to ensure the safety and security of children affected by disasters and calamities, such as:

  • Establishment of child and women-friendly transitional shelters for orphaned, separated, and unaccompanied children;
  • Heightened surveillance against child trafficking, other acts of violence/abuse against children especially in the aftermath of disasters;
  • Development of a system for the restoration and reconstruction of civil documents for children and their families that have been destroyed or declared lost or missing during a disaster or calamity;
  • Promotion and conduct of child-responsive training programs for community and barangay leaders, school personnel, rescuers and other disaster responders;
  • Improving the standards and guidelines to trace and reunify orphaned, unaccompanied, or separated children to their families or relatives;
  • Increased participation of children in disaster risk reduction (DRR) planning and post-disaster needs assessments;
  • Ensure the proper identification and establishment of safe evacuation centers to limit the use of schools and child development centers as evacuation centers during calamities and disasters;
  • Improving the system of data gathering, monitoring and reporting in a disaster situation to better understand and deliver the specific and nutritional needs of newborn babies, children, pregnant and lactating mothers.

Aside from the DSWD, the IRR will be signed by the heads of agencies from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of National Defense (DND), Department of Health (DOH), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Office of Civil Defense (OCD), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), National Housing Authority (NHA), and Council for the Welfare of Children (CWC).

“Through this law, we can increase the accountability of the local and the national government to communities, especially during disaster or calamity situations. The law will also establish standards to improve the protection and care of children in disaster situations and ensure that their rights are respected and secured,” Sec. Taguiwalo added.

Lastly, the Secretary also reminded the public that disaster risk reduction, response, and management processes involve the collective action between the public and the government.

“One of the keys to the proper enactment of this law is to empower the public and encourage their involvement in crafting and implementing DRRM policies and programs that can help improve the ability of Filipino communities to mitigate the effects of calamities and disasters and promote resiliency. We can save more lives if we work in solidarity with each other,” Sec. Taguiwalo said. (DSWD)