President Benigno S. Aquino III on Wednesday signed into law a bill that aims to improve the care and protection of children affected by disasters.
President Aquino inked Republic Act No. 10821, known as the “Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act”, in the presence of ranking government officials, led by Senate President Franklin Drilon and House of Representatives Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., and other stakeholders in a ceremony held at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang Palace.
“Layunin ng batas na ito na magbuo ng isang komprehensibo at malawakang plano para siguruhing mapapangalagaan ang kapakanan ng kabataang Pilipinong apektado ng kalamidad, sakuna, at ng iba pang di inaasahang mga pangyayari. Alam naman kasi natin na sa mga pagkakataong ito, kabataan ang pinaka-nanganganib ang kalagayan dahil talagang wala silang kalaban-laban,” the President said in his speech.
The new law establishes a strategic program of action that would enable the government to respond immediately to the needs of children before, during and after emergencies, protect their rights, and facilitate rehabilitation.
Both houses of Congress were inspired to push for the passage of the bill following the devastation inflicted by super Typhoon Yolanda in Eastern and Central Visayas in 2013, where children were the most affected.
“Ngayon, lalong tumitibay ang mandato ng lokal at pambansang pamahalaan na magtayo ng child-friendly spaces, evacuation centers, transitional shelters na may pasilidad para sa mga pangangailangan ng kabataan, pati na ng mga nagdadalantao. Saklaw din nito ang pagtitiyak na matutugunan ang kanilang mga pangunahing pangangailangan, tulad ng pagkain at damit, pati na rin ng edukasyon at serbisyong-medikal. Pai-iigtingin din nito ang pagbabantay sa seguridad at kaligtasan ng kabataan,” he said.
“Magsasagawa tayo ng child-responsive training program para sa lahat ng responders sa mga lugar na pinangyayarihan ng kalamidad. Sa paraang ito, ang pagtutok sa kaligtasan ng kabataan, magiging prayoridad na rin sa emergency response training ng ating NDRRMC agency members,” he said, referring to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Republic Act 10821 declares that it is now the policy of the State “to protect the fundamental rights of children before, during and after disasters, and other emergency situations when children are gravely threatened or endangered by circumstances that affect their survival and normal development”.
The State “shall establish and implement a comprehensive and strategic program of action to provide the children, as well as pregnant and lactating mothers affected by disasters and other emergency situations with utmost support and assistance necessary for their immediate recovery and protection against all forms of violence, cruelty, discrimination, neglect, abuse, exploitation and other acts prejudicial to their interest, survival, development and well-being”, the Act further states.
The law, which according to Save the Children Philippines is the first of its kind in the world, will increase accountability to communities, as it spells out clear and identifiable standards that will need to be addressed and explained during congressional hearings on response efforts during disasters.
According to the Act, the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Department of the Interior and Local Government will “jointly submit written documentation and report on their surveillance and monitoring” to the appropriate committees of the Senate and the House, within five days from the declaration of a national state of calamity or as soon as practicable. PND (sm)