Senate OKs bill ensuring health of mothers, children in first 1,000 days

MANILA, Philippines – The bill seeking to expand the country’s nutrition and health programs for mothers and children during the child’s first 1,000 days is a few steps away from becoming a law, after the Senate approved it on third and final reading.

Voting 18-0, the Senate on Monday, March 5, approved Senate Bill 1537 or the Healthy Nanay and Bulilit Act. The House of Representatives approved the counterpart measure in September 2017.

The bill seeks to fight malnutrition of children during the first 1,000 days, starting from the first day of the mother’s pregnancy.

“Ensuring that every child receives the adequate nutrition and is provided the critical health services during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, allowing them to perform better in school, more effectively fight off diseases, earn more as an adult, and become healthy, productive citizens,” said Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor of the measure.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, co-sponsor of the bill, said the programs under the bill would help curb maternal deaths.

“It is our vision to inculcate prevention through a targeted approach and interventions provided at the different life stages of a child,” he said.

Senator Grace Poe, another co-sponsor, said malnourishment of the mother and the child will affect the development of the brain, the functions of organs, and even temperament. These types of damage, she said, are found to be irreversible.

“Kung masustansya ang kinakain ng ating mga nanay at ng ating mga anak sa kanilang period of development, baka tayo ang isa sa maging pinakamagaling na bansa sa Asya dahil ang mga Pilipino ay may angking galing kahit na sa hirap ng buhay natin. Lalo na siguro kapag tayo ay mas malusog,” Poe said.

(If the mothers and infants are eating healthy food during the latter's period of development, we could be one of the best countries in Asia because Filipinos have inherent talent despite our poverty. All the more if we're healthy.)

Under the bill, the government would be mandated to prioritize the nutrition of pre-pregnant, pregnant, and lactating women, as well as infants and young children.

The bill also seeks to strengthen enforcement of Executive Order 51 or the “Milk Code” and Republic Act 10028 or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which promote optimal infant and young child feeding and maternity protection.

The Senate and the House are set to convene a bicameral conference committee to thresh out differences between their measures. The approved final version will go to President Rodrigo Duterte for his signature. –

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is a multimedia reporter focusing on media, technology, and disinformation.