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SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau

Health, education & communication bills pass House scrutiny
26 February 2017 12:22:23 PM

The House committee on appropriations expressed its support for various important health, education and communication bills by approving their funding provisions to ensure implementation of the measures once enacted into law.

The approval was done by the committee chaired by Rep. Karlo Alexei B. Nograles (1st District, Davao City) during a recent hearing.

On the health bills, the committee approved the funding provision of the substitute bill to House Bills 34, 246, 448, 1428, 1438, 1558, 1764, 1970, 2616, 2990, 3070, 3276 and 3371, institutionalizing the National School Feeding Program for public kindergarten and elementary pupils and appropriating funds therefor, authored respectively, by Reps. Raul del Mar, Bellaflor Angara-Castillo, Jose Christopher Belmonte, Raul Tupas, Salvador Belaro Jr., Luis Raymund ‘LRay’ Villafuerte Jr., Carlos Isagani Zarate, Estrellita Suansing, Reynaldo Umali, Wes Gatchalian, Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, Harry Roque Jr., and Maximo Rodriguez Jr.

Roque pointed out the high incidence of malnutrition in the country despite the reported underspending in the last six years. “This bill will present a solution to the problem of acute malnutrition affecting six million of our children and will provide them the food they need. Government has a problem with underspending and absorptive capacity over the past six years, and yet, despite the underspending, we have six million cases of acute malnutrition,” Roque said.

The committee also approved the funding provision of the substitute bill to HBs 104, 233, 504, 1505 and 1968, establishing a Free Basic Medicine Assistance Program in all government health facilities nationwide, authored respectively, by Reps. Angelina ‘Helen’ Tan M.D., Rodante Marcoleta, Victor Yap, Gary Alejano, and Estrellita Suansing.

In sponsoring the substitute bill, Tan, chairperson of the committee on health, said the measure seeks to bridge the gap between health and poverty by making medicines accessible to qualified recipients to help them remain healthy and productive individuals, in consonance with the present administration’s health agenda which is ‘all for health towards health for all.’

Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda (2nd District, Albay) proposed to the committee on health to study the possibility of letting the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation shoulder the additional costs for the free medicines as such is part of PhilHealth’s mandate, under the corporation’s preventive medical assistance program.

“The Department of Health (DOH) has a budget ceiling, so the Philhealth should be made to fund this. Less people who will go to the hospital means they (Philhealth) will be able to save (money),” Salceda said.

Roque concurred with Salceda’s views, adding that a similar bill is pending in the health committee seeking to scrutinize Philhealth’s charter as a possible source of funding for universal health care.

Rep. Deogracias Victor B. Savellano (1st District, Ilocos Sur) proposed the research and development of more herbal medicines, including the study of tobacco products for medicinal purposes.

The committee likewise approved the funding provision of HB 1530, in consolidation with HBs 2064 and 3157, requiring government agencies to indicate the blood type of individuals in the identification cards, certificates, and licenses, authored respectively, by Reps. Alexandria Gonzales, Mark Villar, and Gary Alejano.

Gonzales narrated the dangers of infusing the wrong type of blood in cases of emergencies and also the delays in the administration of medical aid due to unidentified blood types during accidents.

“To safeguard the lives and welfare of our citizens, we seek to mandate all government agencies the indication of an individual’s blood type in the IDs, certificates and licenses they issue to anyone to serve as a vital source of information for medical professionals in unfortunate incidents,” said Gonzales.

Salceda proposed the inclusion of private company-issued IDs in the coverage of the Act while Rep. Mark Go (Lone District, Baguio) urged the health committee to study the possibility of having the individuals shoulder the blood typing themselves to save government funds.

The committee also approved the funding provision of HB 3222, in consolidation with HBs 1387 and 2822, establishing a National Vision Screening Program for kindergarten pupils and appropriating funds therefor, authored respectively, by Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano, Reps. Alfredo Vargas III, and Estrellita Suansing.

Escudero, chairperson of the committee on basic education and culture, said the Department of Education (DepEd) will implement the National Vision Screening Program , in coordination with the DOH. Its appropriation will come from the General Appropriations Act (GAA ) under the budgets of the DepEd and DOH according to her. Moreover, Escudero said the program will be launched in public schools, but the private education sector is encouraged to adopt it.

Likewise, the committee approved the funding provision of the substitute bill to HBs 1204 and 2900, strengthening the Balik Scientist Program and appropriating funds therefor, authored respectively, by Reps. Divina Grace Yu and Erico Aristotle Aumentado.

Nograles said the Balik Scientist Program measure is important because it is part of the President’s legislative agenda and the common legislative agenda of the House and the Senate.

“The objective of the measure is to encourage scientists and technology experts of Filipino citizenship or descent, who are based abroad, to return to the Philippines, share their expertise and contribute in the country’s development by teaching or through research and development,” said Yu. She said a similar bill was filed in the 15th Congress and it reached the third and final reading during the 16th Congress, but was not passed due to time constraint.

As to education-related bills, the committee approved the funding provision of HB 139, mandating the conservation of Gabaldon and other heritage school buildings nationwide, providing penalties for violations, and appropriating funds therefor, authored by Rep. Victoria Isabel Noel.

Rep. Celso L. Lobregat (1st District, Zamboanga City) and Rep. Mohamad Khalid Q. Dimaporo (1st District, Lanao del Norte) in their statements said the DepEd should ensure the structural integrity of buildings that would be identified for conservation to safeguard and protect the schoolchildren using them.

The committee also approved the funding provision of the substitute bill to HBs 1890 and 2867, establishing a Career Guidance and Counselling Program for all secondary schools and appropriating funds therefor, authored respectively, by Rep. Arthur Defensor Jr. and Escudero.

Escudero said the Career Guidance and Counselling Program will institutionalize a program that will provide students in both public and private secondary schools proper guidance and direction in pursuing their tertiary education.

Nograles said : “By writing a law, we will institutionalize it, therefore making it mandatory regardless of change of administration. Congress saw it fit to make it a permanent structure.”

Nograles allayed fears of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and DepEd on the possible duplication of an existing program under the K-12 program.

Defensor said when they filed the bill, they were mindful of the provisions of the K-12 law. “The real intention of the bill is to institutionalize career and guidance counselling, make it more categorical, obligatory and more programmatic. It seeks to create an educational system which is relevant by making the product of the system responsive to the needs of the government, and to the opportunities that the government and the economy can provide for them when they graduate,” Defensor said.

Escudero sponsored the bills mandating the conservation of Gabaldon-type school buildings in the country, establishing a National Vision Screening Program for kindergarten pupils, and establishing a Career Guidance And Counselling Program for all secondary schools.

Lastly, the committee approved the funding provision of a communication bill, HB 929, which provides for the establishment of the ‘no calls and no text’ registration system, authored by Rep. Francis Gerald Abaya.

“The call to establish a ‘no call, no text’ registration system bill is aimed at protecting registered subscribers from unwanted calls and text messages,” said Abaya.

“Under the bill, no unsolicited calls or text messages shall be made or sent to the registered cellular phone numbers. This is in recognition of the obligation of the government to intervene on matters affecting general welfare of the people, given the upsurge of exploitative business practices, misleading statements regarding products and services, and other unfair and instrusive advertisements,” said Abaya. He said the National Telecommunications had expressed full support for the bill. / CM