President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Wednesday signed into law a bill protecting children affected by disasters in the Philippines, which is regularly hit by natural calamities.
Republic Act 10821, known as the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act, establishes a strategic program of action wherein the government can immediately respond to the needs of children, protect their rights and facilitate rehabilitation.
In his speech, Aquino said the new law strengthens the government’s mandate to put up evacuation centers with facilities for children and pregnant women.
He added that the law also mandates child-responsive training for emergency responders in calamity-hit areas such as community and barangay (village) leaders.
“Ang nais natin, nasaan man tayo naroon… kapag may parating na kalamidad, sakuna, o di-inaasahang pangyayari, ay panatag ang loob, dahil alam nilang nariyan ang gobyerno, nakatutok sa buhay at kapakanan ng kanilang mga anak, at ng kabataang Pilipino [What we want is wherever we are… when a calamity, disaster, or unexpected event strikes, we are confident that the government is there to oversee the lives and welfare of the Filipino children],” Aquino said.
Lawmakers pushed for the passage of the bill in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (internationa name: Haiyan) that struck most parts of the Philippines in 2013, affecting around six million children.
In a statement, Save the Children country director Ned Olney noted that children are always the most vulnerable when disasters strike.
He said the law “provides specific legal protection to children, it ensures that children have targeted humanitarian intervention, and that government services and communities are better prepared for future disasters.”
The new law mandates the Department of Social Welfare and Development and other national agencies to enhance their services for child survivors of calamities.
These services include family tracing for unaccompanied minors, disaggregated data collection to identify children, training on child-focused response, expedited restoration of lost civil documents and establishment of a limit to use of schools as evacuation centers.
Olney said the signing into law of the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act takes place a few days before the World Humanitarian Summit opens in Istanbul on May 23, 2016.
“As one of the most disaster-prone countries in the world, Save the Children says the Philippines sends a strong signal to world leaders that children caught in disasters must be protected,” he said.
Olney urged the next administration to support and fast-track drafting of Implementing Rules and Regulations of the new law before the typhoon season begins.
“Together, we have achieved an enormous victory for children. Now the real work begins, as we need to work double time so that the reforms will immediately benefit and protect children in the next crisis,” he said.