Multisectoral Policy Agenda for the 15th Congress

A. Health

1. Comprehensive national policy on reproductive health. Among other factors, high maternal death rate (at 172 per 100,000 live births or more than 4,000 annually) calls for a comprehensive policy on reproductive health. This also necessitates the provision of family planning needs of women and couple who choose to space pregnancies and births. A comprehensive policy will empower both women and men to address their reproductive health needs by providing them an informed choice. Thus, there is a need to finally enact a reproductive health law.

2. Universalizing health insurance towards universal health care. There is a need to expand the national health insurance program by amending RA 7875 which includes increasing premium contribution of the national government, defining offenses and abuses against the National Health Insurance Program, and properly identifying the poor as the priority target beneficiaries. It shall also push for transforming PhilHealth to become an effective financer of health care; the expansion of PhilHealth coverage and services to include—but not limit to—benefits for out-patient health services. This is also a call to bring down out-of-pocket expenses and increase the government share in public health spending.

3. Increasing budget for health. Decreasing out-of-pocket expenses and increasing government share in health services requires increasing the budget for health. Improving the efficiency of public health care providers also calls for the increase in budget for health. According to the Department of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) standard for total health expenditure is only 5% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). At present, the Philippines’ public health spending is estimated at 3%.

4. Increasing the regulatory powers of the DOH. The proposal seeks to look into the mandates and thrusts of DOH.

5. Supporting the increase in taxes on tobacco products. This is part of the campaign against smoking and its ill effects. It is proposed that the additional revenue from increased taxes on tobacco products be earmarked for supporting health care services.

6. Addressing health care worker issues. The proposal seeks to address the issues of health care workers in the country (migration of health care workers, low wages and benefits, etc.).

B. Education

1. Higher budget for basic education. This proposal calls on Congress to increase government allocation for education to 6 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product as prescribed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizations (UNESCO) to address the needs for shrtages in classrooms, salaries of teachers, books, computers and other learning tools. It should also look into foreign projects which were not maximized or were not fully implemented.

2. Universal pre-schooling for all. The proposal seeks to ensure government resources for pre-schooling especially community-based day care centers, ensure professional development of day care workers, and accredit community-organized day care centers in rural and urban centers.

3. Protecting students’ rights and welfare. This is an old proposal which Congress has failed to pass for the past thirteen years. Student groups have long been advocating for a Magna Carta which would recognize and guarantee the exercise of students’ rights and welfare inside campuses. The Magna Carta will empower students as equal partners in improving system of learning in the country.

C. Governance and Fiscal Reforms

1. Freedom of Information Law. The law shall provide a clear, uniform and speedy procedure for access to information. The procedure shall provide quick and certain period of compliance, and the manner of making, and responding to, requests. This law shall be a mandate to promote a culture of openness within government, and to enhance not only the physical accessibility of information, but its understandability by the general public as well.

2. Fiscal Responsibility Law. This aims to ensure that only appropriations measures with identified funding source will become laws.

3. Rationalization of fiscal incentives. The proposed law aims to establish an incentive system that will reduce revenue leakages coming from various incentive laws.

4. Debt audit. This could be in a form of House or Senate Joint Resolution to ascertain the legitimacy of these debts; make transparent the payment of debt obligations; determine which are fraudulent, behest and onerous; and consequently take appropriate action. This will review and rationalize the country’s debt policies.

5. Additional tax on tobacco products. The proposed measure is intended to generate additional revenues for the government and promote public health by discouraging current smokers to quit and prevent potential smokers from starting. (Related discussion appears under “Health.”)

6. Sugar tax. This proposed measure seeks to impose additional tax (excise tax or other levies) on carbonated beverages or other flavored syrups and to also promote public health by preventing diabetes.

D. Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

1. National Land Use Bill. Different laws govern land use concerns which result in conflicting claims on land. Among these laws are the Urban Development Housing Act (UDHA), Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA), Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARP), Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act and the Fisheries Code. Legislating NLUA will address inconsistencies in provisions and implementation of land use laws.

2. National Farm Law. This proposal seeks to formulate a farm development blueprint as a strategic framework based on six major guideposts: (1) food self-sufficiency; (2) productivity and competitiveness; (3) linkaging with industry; (4) new sources of growth for agriculture; (5) conservation and utilization of natural resources in a sustainable manner; and (6) role of non-government organizations, people’s organizations, farming associations, and cooperatives.

3. Alternative Mining Law. Large-scale mining involves heavy extraction of finite mineral resources. It also causes massive displacement of Indigenous Peoples (IP) and other local inhabitants. There are conflicting land use laws affecting ancestral domain claims. The alternative mining bill is a proposal that focuses on responsible mining stresses the need for conservation and preservation and treats resource generation as a secondary priority.

4. Modified Crop Insurance System. The proposal seeks to introduce modifications or expand the coverage of the current crop insurance system to protect agricultural assets in the event of natural calamities, plant pests and diseases and other agricultural hazards.

5. NFA Restructuring Bill. This calls for complete restructuring of the National Food Authority to solve the problems of over-importation and oversupply of rice and prioritize purchase of rice from local farmers.

E. Trade

1. Philippine Trade Representative Office (PTRO). Under globalization, national strategizing and policy coherence is crucial. A PTRO will define more clearly the international trade negotiating framework, and priorities of the trade policies of the country. It shall calibrate tariff and other measures based on a country’s level of development; identify strengths, weaknesses, and complementariness of trade partners; and strategize the country’s position for maximum gains and minimal pains. The PTRO shall consult the public and share more information to them. Industry and other stakeholders including workers and farmers must have representation in the PTRO.

2. Anti-Smuggling. Smuggling distorts trade output and destroys the livelihood of small local producers. For 2009, we lost approximately PhP224B to smuggling. Government should enact a law strengthening campaign versus outright and technical smuggling. The law should declare smuggling a heinous crime, impose higher penalties, adopt risk customs, and valuation measures used by developed countries. A law is needed to strengthen safeguards laws like anti-dumping and import surges. The government should seek diplomatic agreement with China on the flooding of smuggled Chinese goods in the country.

3. Fair Competition Policy. Trade policy should strengthen local industry and jobs. It should identify measures to correct unfair trade practices. Market opening should not lead to displacement of local producers. Competition policy should balance consumer protection economic efficiency, protection of existing industry/jobs and preservation of culture/heritage. Congress should pass a law equalizing incentives for local and foreign investors. Law on fair competition should focus on leveling the playing field for local and foreign investors, anti-monopoly and cross-ownership in strategic industries.

4. Freedom of Information. There is lack of transparency in trade negotiations. Trade negotiators have not been disclosing all pertinent documents on trade deals which need to be scrutinized by the public. Even Congress is excluded from the treaty-making process. A law is needed to ensure transparency in all trade negotiations. All information in the possession, custody or control of any government agency is of public interest and should be accessible to everybody. (See related discussion under “Governance and Fiscal Reforms.”)

F. Environment

1. Support and prioritize three legislative proposals on Water, Forestry, and Land Use.

Water. The water sector is terribly fragmented, with over 30 different agencies having some role in water resources, and water supply and sanitation. NWRB confronts a number of implementation challenges, the more important of which deal with the establishment of water rights and their allocation.

In some cases, water rights are sought for speculative purposes but no water development follows. The water inventory of the NWRB from which the issuance of water rights is based is outdated in most areas. The rights allocation process and criteria contained in the Philippine Water Code should therefore be reviewed and amended.

Water rights allocation should be informed by watershed dynamics and be scientifically based. Watershed management and water governance are currently treated as isolated activities, when in fact, they are interlinked and should form part of an integrated adaptive cycle.

Land Use. There are conflicting claims on land and overlapping land uses. A comprehensive framework on land and water use is lacking. Different laws govern land use concerns. Some of these laws include the Urban Development Housing Act (UDHA), Indigenous People’s Rights Act, Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act and the Fisheries Code. There are inconsistencies in provisions and implementation of land use laws. Congress should pass the NLUA to resolve conflicting claims on land. Meanwhile, an Executive Order can be promulgated to harmonize land use.

Forestry. The proposal for a Sustainable Forest Management aims to address governance of forestlands by people’s organizations, provide environmental services, clarify user’s fees and consolidate tenure instruments and various business arrangements on forest management. Moreover, we should not only restore our forest, we should recharge the forest. The SFMA aims to provide policies that would help bring back our natural forests – with a better forest comes better ecosystem.

2. Regulate the rational exploration, development, and utilization of mineral resources (Alternative Mining Bil). The proposal aims to scrap the Mining Act of 1995 and introduce a new mining law to regulate the rational exploration, development and utilization of mineral resources and ensure the equitable sharing of benefits for the State, indigenous peoples and local communities. It covers ownership, management and governance of ore minerals onshore, as well as quarry resources, sand and gravel, guano and gemstones. It excludes offshore mining and other resources such as petroleum and coal, natural gas, radioactive materials and geothermal energy, as these are resources that require specific laws.

3. Declaration of Protected Areas under NIPAS Act including the 17 recommended Protected Areas mentioned in the DENR report

4. Review of Biofuels Law. There is growing concern of allocating our limited arable land to biofuels rather than to growing food crops and cereals. It is made worse when richer countries are leasing lands to grow biofuels to supply their future fuel requirements.

In reviewing the biofuels law, one of the suggestions was to have a hierarchy of land uses that prioritizes food production over biofuels, provide safeguards, with strict stipulation that biofuels be allowed only in marginal lands where no alternative food crops are viable.

G. Women

1. Anti-Prostitution. Women in prostitution are victims of abuse and in most instances are forced into prostitution. There is a need to amend the Revised Penal Code provision that criminalizes women in prostitution and fails to punish those who profit from the business of prostitution, including the club owners and the men who engage women in prostitution.

2. Divorce Bill. The proposed bill seeks to introduce divorce as another option for couples in failed and irreparable marriages. Couples must have the option to avail of remedies that will pave the way for the attainment of their full development and self-fulfillment and the protection of their human rights. The bill shall address the inadequacy of the current laws relating to separation of couples and termination of marriage to respond to the myriad causes of failed marriages.

3. Kasambahay Bill. The bill recognizes the protection of rights of women working as domestic helpers. This will provide domestic helpers more protection in terms of wages, labor standard s and other social protection. This bill will also affirm the provision in RA 9231 stipulating that no children below 15 years will be allowed to engage in domestic work.

H. Children

1. Passage of the Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill. The Anti-Corporal Punishment Bill includes measures that parents can adopt in order to promote discipline in a positive and non-punitive manner. It veers away from the traditional perspective that corporal punishment (physical/emotional) is an effective way to teach children how to behave properly. It promotes positive discipline as a measure to teach a child lessons without physically or emotionally putting them in danger. The passage into law of the said bill will strengthen RA 7610 or the Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse.

2. Opposing measures to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility. To ensure that children do not dangerously interact with adults in prison and that they are protected from possible corruption, the measure to lower the minimum age of criminal responsibility as stipulated in the Juvenile Justice Act must be strongly opposed. By doing so, there will be an assurance that children are not exposed to a harsh environment that will hamper their rehabilitation and reconciliation with society.

3. Supporting the proposed bill on foster care. A bill on foster care must be supported to help strengthen the family and systematize alternative parental care arrangements. This will provide a venue for children to feel a sense of belongingness and with parents/guardians/adults to take care of their needs and guide their actions.

4. Protecting children affected by armed conflict. The protection of children involved in armed conflict must be ensured by consolidating programs and instituting legal measures.

5. Removing distinction and discrimination among/between illegitimate children. To avoid illegitimate children from being discriminated against and getting unfair treatment, a law must be institutionalized in order to ensure that their rights are protected.

6. Allocation of budget for children. The budget for children must be comprehensive to cover various aspects. Also, strict implementation of laws can be assured if family courts are properly instituted/funded. There are a number of laws that are not properly implemented due to insufficient funding.

7. Strengthening the Council on the Welfare of Children. There is a need for a structure that will cover existing and future challenges concerning children. The Council for the Welfare of Children must have better mechanisms to implement laws without depending too much on local governments or NGOs.

8. Strengthening children’s venue for participation. By closely studying organizational structures such as the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK), better ways can be instituted to further their causes and ideals.

I. Labor

1. Realigning national labor relations laws with ratified international labor conventions. The Philippines has ratified many international labor conventions but some of these are not implemented. Realigning domestic laws with international standards will affirm the ratified conventions.

2. Magna Carta of Workers in the Informal Employment (MACWIE). MCWIE will promote the total well-being of workers in informal employment. MCWIE caters to small farmers, fisherfolk, rural workers, vendors, home-based workers, drivers, conductors, pedicab drivers and tricycle drivers, non-corporate construction workers, small-scale miners, cargo handlers, waster pickers, and government volunteers among others. Proposed programs include social protection, social security, health care assistance and social welfare and safety nets, skills building/training, addressing gender gaps, and setting standards in informal economy.

3. Domestic Workers Law a.k.a. Batas Kasambahay. (See related discussion above under “Women.”) Domestic helpers are among the most neglected workers in the country. Batas Kasambahay will not only accord social benefits to domestic helpers, it will also require the use of formal contract to govern employee-employer relationship.

4. Amendments to the Absentee Voting Law. The proposal aims to amend the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) Act of 2003 to ensure overseas Filipinos to have equal opportunity to exercise their right to vote. The current OAV system is not feasible to register millions of overseas workers.

5. Ratification of International Labor Convention 177 on Homework. This proposal seeks to protect the home-based workers by uplifting their conditions based on labor standards of decent work.

6. Passage of Bill on Strengthening Security of Tenure. This will address the issue of labor only contracting and ensure the security of tenure of workers.

7. Amendments to the Dual Training Act. This measure aims to protect the rights of students being exploited in place of the regular workers.

8. Passage of Public Sector Relations Law. This proposal aims to provide government workers the rights and priveleges accorded to private sector workers under the Labor Code

9. Amendment to the Labor Code (Book 5). This bill seeks to amend Book 5 of the Labor Code on Labor Relations specifically on regulations regarding freedom of association, collective bargaining, right to strike and others in adherance to the International Labor Convention.

J. Human Rights

1. Internal Displacement (in relation to armed conflict). Congress should pass a law ensuring human rights protection in conflict areas. Hamletting, food blockade, forced evacuation and other human rights violations continue to terrorize communities caught in the crossfire between soldiers and armed rebel groups.

2. Anti Enforced Disappearance. Cases of torture and forced disappearances continued to swell even after the downfall of the Marcos government. Congress needs to pass a law that will institute measures and protect individuals against forced disappearances. Senate should also ratify Convention on Involuntary Disappearance.

3. Extra Judicial Killing Bill. Aside from the statement of the President to stop extra judicial killings, Congress should also act on the cases of extra judicial killings especially on the media personalities and social activists.

4. Anti-discrimination Act. There is no existing policy that upholds LGBT rights. Past proposals have not been acted upon by Congress. Government should begin prioritizing the passage of law recognizing equal rights of LGBT sector.

5. Strengthening the legislative oversight functions of the Human Security Act. Congress should have more oversight functions to monitor implementation and prevent abuse of the Human Security Act. Safeguards should be strengthened to uphold civil liberties at all time in implementing the law.