Press Release
November 7, 2014


One year after super typhoon Yolanda devastated parts of the country, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has filed a bill to institutionalize the protection of children affected by natural disasters.

"Children are the most vulnerable in times of disaster. They are at higher risk of disease, abuse, and exploitation. They are place-oriented, and cannot cope well to changes that result from disaster," said Santiago, who hails from the Yolanda-hit province of Iloilo.

Yolanda, which flattened towns in Western Visayas, is estimated to have affected six million Filipino children. In 2012, some 2.3 million children in Mindanao bore the brunt of another typhoon, Pablo.

Santiago said that for disaster response to effectively meet the needs of children, it is essential that all actors, especially the national and local governments, have child-center policies in place before a disaster takes place.

"Although we have laws which address the issue of children in especially difficult circumstances, these laws do not include enough provisions which pertain to child protection during a state of calamity," Santiago said.

Senate Bill No. 2446 or the Children's Emergency Relief and Protection Act will, direct the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to formulate a comprehensive program to protect children during a state of calamity.

These measures include ensuring the safety and security of affected children, and their protection from abuse, exploitation and child labor. The landmark bill also includes provisions on training first responders on proper safeguarding of children.

The proposed law also requires the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) to develop a system for restoring destroyed or missing legal documents as a result of disasters.

Santiago noted that in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda, it took about five months before agencies began restoring civil documents which children need in order to avail of basic services and education.

Santiago urged her colleagues to support the landmark bill and translate lessons learned from Typhoon Yolanda and other disasters into strengthened policies that will benefit children in future disasters.

At the House of Representatives, Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap has filed House Bill No. 5062, a counterpart version of Santiago's bill.

Prior to this bill, Santiago has filed several Yolanda-related resolutions, including Senate Resolution Nos. 400 and 725, urging inquiries on measures to protect children in evacuation centers, and the reported proliferation of child labor in Yolanda-hit areas.

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