Good health, proper nutrition

As chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, I am greatly concerned about the adverse effects of undernutrition, not just on our children’s health but also its impact on the productivity of our people and future generations. Hence, this issue must be addressed immediately.

The Department of Health and the Department of Science and Technology should be commended for spearheading the “Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition 2023-2028” launched early this month. The initiative is a pivotal move towards addressing the country’s ongoing battle against malnutrition, particularly undernutrition, which happens when children cannot maintain good health because they do not consume enough nutrients at an early age.

The PPAN will focus on three major interventions, including a package of maternal health services, integrated maternal and child health nutrition services, and increased availability and access to nutritious food. The program aims to regulate unhealthy food and establish food gardens, especially in the identified priority areas, including Leyte, Sulu, and Negros Occidental.

According to a World Bank report, the Philippines has been battling the problem of undernutrition for nearly 30 years now. We are ranked 5th in the East Asia and Pacific region in terms of stunting. The 2019 report indicated that 29 percent, or one in three Filipino children not older than five years old, suffer from stunting, which means they are small for their age.

For this reason, former president Rodrigo Duterte signed Republic Act 11148, or the “First 1,000 Days” law, which focused on maternal and child health during the earliest days of life. His administration also launched the School-Based Feeding Program, providing sufficient nutritious meals to undernourished public school children.

Good health should be everyone’s concern, which is why I have authored and sponsored various health-related laws, such as the recently passed Republic Act 11959 or the Regional Specialty Centers Act, mandating the establishment of Regional Specialty Centers within existing DoH regional hospitals to bring such medical services closer to Filipinos in need of specialized care.

As principal author and sponsor, I also monitor the continuous implementation of the Malasakit Centers Act to ensure convenient access of impoverished and indigent Filipinos to medical assistance programs. DoH data showed there are now 158 Malasakit Centers nationwide, benefiting over seven million Filipinos.

In partnership with DoH, fellow lawmakers, and local government units, I have also pushed for the establishment of more Super Health Centers nationwide to provide primary care, medical consultations, and early detection of diseases, especially at the grassroots.

Meanwhile, I have also continued my mission of serving fellow Filipinos facing crises nationwide. On 9 September, I aided 250 fire victims in Barangay Culiat, Quezon City, in collaboration with the office of Congresswoman Marivic Co-Pilar.

On 8 September, we were the guest speaker at the 50th commencement exercises of Cavite State University-CCAT Rosario Campus, where we distributed gift packs and motivated 680 graduates to use their education to improve their communities.

In the past few days, my office helped 225 impoverished fire victims in Valenzuela City, 16 in Caloocan City, and 22 in Antipolo City, Rizal landslide victims. Aside from our support, they also received assistance from the National Housing Authority through a program I initiated and continue supporting to help disaster victims purchase materials to rebuild their houses.

We also provided support to displaced workers aided by the Department of Labor and Employment, such as 269 beneficiaries in Baliwag and 150 in Bustos, Bulacan; 44 in Makati City; 44 in Pasay City; 21 in Ma-ayon, Capiz; and 382 in Iloilo City.

Our office also provided additional support to beneficiaries of the Department of Trade and Industry’s livelihood program’s “negosyo kits” for crisis-affected communities. This includes 59 beneficiaries from Patnongon, 20 from Sibalom, 13 from Bugasong, 12 from Hamtic, and two from Belison, all in Antique; 21 micro-entrepreneurs in Ma-ayon, Capiz; and 26 in Bongabon, Nueva Ecija. Other beneficiaries were 84 individuals in Abucay, Balanga, Bagac, Dinalupihan, Hermosa, Limay, Mariveles, Morong, Orani, Orion, Pilar, and Samal in the province of Bataan. We reminded them that a stable livelihood is one of the keys to improving the quality of life for your family.

My office also provided immediate assistance to 71 fire victims in Parañaque City, 689 indigent students in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, and 100 TESDA graduates in Danao City, Cebu.

The government and private sector must work hand-in-hand to break the cycle of poverty and address malnutrition. Let us give every Filipino a chance to have a healthier and brighter future together.

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