Moms-to-be, Sen. Sonny Angara has asked the question we've all been wondering since the year began: when will the House of Representatives pass the Expanded Maternity Leave Act?
Last August 5, 2018, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Sen. Angara "prodded the House of Representatives to speed up the passage of the expanded maternity leave bill that would double the number of days women could take time off from work after giving birth, from 60 to 120."
A month ago, at least two moms from our Facebook group, Smart Parenting Village, forwarded us this link of a report that seemed to suggest the expanded maternity bill was already signed.
We had to tell them the headline may have misled them. Upon checking, the news item was in fact first published in March of 2017. It was likely reshared again on Facebook since it was popping up on Smart Parenting Village's moms' feed. When you open and read the link, however, it was a report on Senate Bill No. 1305's approval in the Senate.
We have been waiting on the counterpart bill from the House of Representatives since January 2017. Once that is approved by the House, the bill will undergo a bicameral committee hearing before the final proposal is submitted for the Philippine president's signature. Only then will it become a law and applicable to pregnant Filipinas.
In a roundtable discussion attended by SmartParenting.com.ph last March 5, 2018, Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who authored the bill, told us she was hopeful the House would approve the counterpart bill that same month; it's been five months since then.
"We're really hopeful and cheering Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy (chairperson committee on Women and Gender Equality), former chairman Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar and others [who support the bill in Congress]," Sen. Hontiveros said at the time.
The Philippines maternity law currently allows for 60 paid leave days for women who have had a vaginal delivery, and 78 paid leave days for women who delivered via a C-section. Our country has the lowest number of paid maternity leave days in Southeast Asia, well below the 98-day recommendation of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Vietnam offers 180 days, while Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, and Malaysia offers 90 days of maternity leave.
Among the pending bill's provisions, perhaps worth noting are these groundbreaking provisions like solo mothers get additional and leave days can be transferred to other caregivers.
The proposed bill will give new mothers more time to recover from childbirth and focus on her postpartum care. Studies have shown that having a longer maternity leave will help new moms lower their chances of developing postpartum depression. A longer maternity leave will also give moms more time to care and bond with her baby, and arrange for caregivers when she goes to work or needs a break.
Doctors have highlighted that one of the crucial benefits of the proposed law is giving moms more time to establish an exclusive breastfeeding practice and reap the benefits of breast milk for her and her baby.
As Sen. Angara noted to Inquirer, “Every mother — or every parent for that matter — should be afforded ample time and opportunity to care for their children.”