Out of 175 countries included in the global ranking of the best and worst countries for children, the Philippines now ranks 104th, according to non-profit organization Save The Children. Ranked 96th in 2017, the Philippines lost eight places this year, while 58 other nations experienced a decline in their ranking.
According to the report, despite the economic boost, malnutrition and stunting now affect one in three Filipino children under five years old. The other two areas that the Philipines failed in are teenage childbearing (we have the highest increasing teenage pregnancy rate in Asia), and mortality or deaths of children ages zero to five years old.
The 2018 End of Childhood Index ranks countries where children are most and least threatened by crucial factors that affect their upbringing. These are poor health, malnutrition, exclusion from education, child labor, child marriage, early pregnancy and extreme violence.
Albeit gradual, the Philippines is taking baby steps in making laws to protect children and grant them fundamental rights such as primary health care, proper shelter, proper education, and more. Here are seven legislations still pending in congress that could further help increase Filipino children's quality for life—we can't wait until they are signed into law.
1. Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act Also known as the 'First 1,000 Days,' it seeks to provide a comprehensive healthcare program for women's pregnancy and their children's first two years. The bill has been approved in Congress, but the conference committee has not yet finalized a copy for the president to sign into law.
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2. Expanded Maternity Leave (EML) Act The Senate's version, which had already been approved in 2017, extends a new mom's maternity leave to 120 paid days from the current 60 and 78 days (for normal and CS delivery, respectively). The version of the bill by the Lower House, which prolongs a new mom's maternity leave to 100 days with pay and an optional 30 days without pay, however, has not yet been approved.
3. Longer Paternity Leave The current paternity leave law allows new fathers to take time off work for only seven days. Proposed bills in Congress have suggested it to be extended to at least 30 days. However, when the EML is signed into law—and hopefully soon—new moms would be able to transfer a total of 30 days of their paid maternity leave to another caregiver, such as her husband.
4. Special Protection of Children in Situations of Armed Conflict Act This bill, which has been approved in the Lower House in February 2018, aims to provide special protection to children in situations of armed conflict from all forms of abuse, violence, neglect, cruelty, and discrimination and other conditions prejudicial to their development. It is still pending at the Senate committee level.
5. The Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization Act Still pending at the Senate and Lower House committee level, this proposed measure aims to have all Filipino children be vaccinated against the following preventable diseases: tuberculosis; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; poliomyelitis; measles; mumps; rubella or German measles; hepatitis B and H. influenza type b (HIB). These immunization shots are already given at health centers, but not all kids receive it.
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6. Children in Motor Vehicle Safety Act Until now, the Philippines still doesn't have a child car seat safety law though there are legislations pending in the Senate and the Lower House that seek to address these. The bills stipulate that children shouldn't be allowed to ride in vehicles without the proper car seat restraints, ride in motorcycles, or be left in a running motor vehicle alone.
7. Junior Citizens Act This seeks to give children ages zero to 12 almost the same privileges as those of seniors citizens. It aims to provide children compulsory Philhealth membership and a mandatory 20 percent discount and exemption of Value Added Tax (VAT) on goods and services, including medical and dental health care services and supplies.
8. Special Education Centers Act This special education bill, filed with a number of versions in the Lower House, seeks to establish centers for children with special needs in all public schools and educational institutions. There is another pending legislation that proposes additional privileges for children with special needs and tax exemptions for their parents and or guardians.
9. The Safe and Non-Hazardous Children’s Products Act A lot of products in the market are not up to par with health standards but remain unchecked, and this bill seeks to regulate the importation, manufacturing, distribution, and sale of children’s products which contain hazardous chemicals. The Lower House had approved the law in 2017, but it has yet to have a counterpart bill in the Senate.
10. Special Protection of Children Against Child Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act This amendment to provide more significant penalties for individuals who practice child labor is still pending at the Senate committee level. The proposed measure aims to eliminate the worst forms of child labor and affording stronger protection for the working child.