Aquino signs law protecting children affected by disasters
MANILA, Philippines - Disasters may be terrifying, but children and their parents have less to fear after a new law was enacted on Wednesday, May 18, that protects children affected by calamities and man-made disasters.
With only weeks to go before the start of the rainy season in the country, President Benigno Aquino III signed Republic Act 10821, also known as the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Act.
The new law mandates the creation of a comprehensive emergency program for children, to be implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The law enshrines best practices to protect children learned from previous disasters. This includes:
- improved family tracing for unaccompanied minors
- disaggregated data collection to identify children
- training workshops on child-focused response
- expedited restoration of lost civil documents
- limitation on the use of schools as evacuation centers (READ: Should government build permanent evacuation centers?)
According to the non-profit Save the Children Philippines, these services will be implemented by local government units and integrated in their local disaster programs and budget.
"We welcome the enactment of this measure into law. This is timely especially with the La Niña phenomenon expected to hit the country in the coming months,” said Senator Bam Aquino who is the chairman of the Senate's Youth Committee and a co-author of the bill.
The 2016 Climate Change Vulnerability Index ranks the Philippines 13th most vulnerable to climate change, an improvement from the 2012 World Risk Index that ranked the Philippines 3rd most vulnerable.
According to Save the Children, the law was based on the study of various civil organizations that worked with children affected by Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013, the strongest typhoon to ever make landfall in history. (READ: IN NUMBERS: 2 years after Typhoon Yolanda)
“We know from experience that when disasters strike, children are always the most vulnerable... This legislation 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,” said Save the Children Country Director Ned Olney.
In his speech, President Aquino cited the data from Save the Children, saying that there were about six million children affected during Yolanda's onslaught. (READ: Growing up with poverty, disasters)
The law also aims to protect the children from man-made disasters such as armed conflict.
“We will continue to work in protecting our Filipino children during disasters, calamities, or armed conflict, but also to reduce trauma and build their resistance to these threats,” Senator Aquino said.
With only a few weeks left for President Aquino's administration, Olney urges the next administration to "fast-track the drafting of Implementing Rules and Regulations of this important legislation before the typhoon season begins."