SEN. Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go wants to provide more benefits for about 15 million single parents in the country, saying the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic made solo parenting tougher.

The senator on Sunday renewed his call for the passage of a bill that aims to provide additional benefits and privileges to solo parents, 95 percent of whom are women.

He raised the need to ease the burden of single-handedly raising their children as the pandemic resulted in “massive losses of income opportunities for many people,” including single parents.

“Responsibilidad natin sa gobyerno ang siguraduhin na may sapat na proteksyon po tayong ibinibigay sa mga solo parents na kabilang sa vulnerable sectors ng ating lipunan (It is our responsibility in the government to ensure that we can give enough protection to solo parents who belong to vulnerable sectors in our society),” Go said.

In July 2019, he filed Senate Bill (SB) 206, which amends the Solo Parents’ Welfare Act of 2000.

SB 206 and other similar measures filed by Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd and Senators Richard Gordon, Ana Theresia Hontiveros, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Maria Imelda Josefa Marcos were consolidated into SB 1411.

Committee Report 69 has already been submitted and the consolidated bill will be tackled again during the period of interpellation when session resumes.

The bill seeks to provide additional financial assistance for poor and indigent solo parents, provided “that any solo parent, regardless of the income bracket or financial status should enjoy the benefits under the comprehensive package of social protection services such as, but not limited to, livelihood opportunities, legal advice and assistance, counseling services, parent effectiveness services, critical incidence stress debriefing and other social projects.”

Solo parents will also be given priority by the employer when entering into agreements regarding telecommuting.

“This is very timely under the ‘new normal’ now that the country slowly reopens the economy when working from home, as long as it is appropriate, is desired to prevent subsequent waves of the pandemic,” Go said.

If they are working for a government agency with over 300 employees or a private company with more than 200 employees, their employers will be mandated to provide child care centers and priority will be given to solo parents.

The Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority will also extend additional scholarships and training to them.

Solo parents can avail themselves of other privileges such as 20 percent discount for infant formula, food and food supplements for children aged three years and below; medicine, vaccine and other medical supplements for children aged 22 years and below; children’s basic necessities; tuition from kindergarten to college; hospital bills; consultation, laboratory fees, diagnostic fees, etc.; and recreational facilities (if the solo parent and the child are together).

Go also expanded the definition of solo parent in SB 206 since under the current law, solo parents are those who have separated from their spouse or were abandoned by the spouse for at least one year.

The bill seeks to include foster parents as solo parents.

“I am pushing for these amendments to the existing law to cater to as many solo parents as possible to help them build a stronger family despite their situation and to support them as productive members of society,” Go said.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Health and the University of the Philippines-National Institutes of Health, there were about 14 million to 15 million solo parents in the country.