Senate Bill No. 657: Adolescents and Youth Mental Health Program Act

In 2011, the World Health Organization found that 16% of Filipino students aged 13 to 15 had contemplated suicide, whilst 13% had actually attempted suicide. Suicide, although not often publicly discussed, is closely linked to mental health disorders.

Unfortunately, mental illness is still a relatively misconstrued concept in our nation with limited public discussion on the proper management and care for those affected.

In a fast urbanizing nation, youth find themselves facing increasing amounts of pressure from the demands of school, employment, and various other social pressures. On the other hand, families now have much more diverse set-ups and and limited time, leaving the youth to be more independent in resolving their own conflicts. Unfortunately, many young people are left with few persons from whom they can seek advice when going through symptoms that are linked to mental illness. Efforts must be made to empower the youth in that mental illness is something that can be addressed without prejudice and with the full support of the community and State.

This bill proposes the creation of a Mental Health Program for the youth aged 15 to 30 years old, to be implemented by the Department of Health, in conjunction with various other government agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Education (DepEd), and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The Mental Health Program for youth will see a widespread information drive on mental health awareness, to be implemented by all local government units. This bill also seeks for the establishment of a Mental Health Desk at all city and municipal health offices where a mental health practitioner will be able to cater to consultations and queries of adolescents and the youth. 

In addition, this bill seeks for every public or private educational institution to employ at least one qualified guidance counselor who is authorized as a mental health practitioner to provide support and advice to students. 

We must ensure that adolescents and the youth’s rights are protected and their needs addressed. By establishing the Mental Health program, we can better equip them to face the challenges of present-day realities. In doing so, we can fully harness the potential of the bright Filipino youth who are our invaluable partners in building the nation. 

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought. 


Senate Bill No. 646: Crowdsourcing Act

The Philippines is one of the most active nations on Facebook with 30 million Filipinos registered to the popular social media website. On the Internet, Filipinos are able to share personal stories, talents, products, appeals for donations, and grievances. And in the May 2016 elections, ideas on politics, governance and legislation flooded our social media feeds.

The Internet has proven time and again, through elections, natural disasters, public scandals, and the like, that it has the power to unite public efforts. The Internet has a power that we harness during times of need and that we ought to maximize for the betterment of our country.

This bill seeks the creation of an online platform for ordinary citizens to create petitions for both Houses of Congress to review, amend, repeal or create a law. This platform shall be launched and maintained by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and it shall serve as a direct communication channel between the legislative branch of government and the general public. Petitions launched on the website should need to have been electronically signed by at least 300,000 before the proposed measure will be forwarder to the relevant committees in both Congress and the Senate.

In our nation, we strive to achieve full participation in the democratic process. With the advent of widespread Internet access, it has never been easier to improve and democratize our legislative process than it is now, utilizing a fast, efficient, and transparent technology to hear the voice of ordinary citizens.

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 656: Maritime Passenger Safety Act

A large part of Philippine trade, commerce, and travel is reliant on sea travel as we are a nation composed of islands. Many workers around the country commute to and from their jobs by Ro-Ro ships that unfortunately are often overloaded and are lacking in safety equipment and protocols. Despite numerous tragic incidents at sea involving commercial vessels, the problems still persist: many poorly maintained sea vessels are plying heavy traffic routes with inadequate safety measures on board.

This bill seeks to assign the Maritime Industry Authority, aided by the Philippine Coast Guard, to be the implementing body that shall monitor all commercial vessels that engage in the carriage of goods or passengers. Such vessels covered under this act shall be required to provide standard safety features to passengers such as an on-board informational video about the safety and emergency protocols. In addition, vessels will be required to have functional and quality safety equipment and adequate emergency features such as emergency lights and exits. This bill shall also outlaw passenger overloading and bar any vessel from departing without a prepared passenger list.

To encourage compliance with minimum safety standards, this bill seeks to penalize companies for non-compliance with a fine of PHP 50,000 – PHP 200,000 depending on the offense and how many times it has been committed. This bill also seeks to discourage repeat offenders by making the third offense punishable by imprisonment.

In a country where hundreds of thousands must travel by sea on a daily basis, we must hold companies to high standards in providing affordable and safe transport for Filipinos. Improving the safety of sea transport will further boost national business development by strengthening the transport infrastructure needed to move people and goods around. Doing so will surely help our national sail toward the path of inclusive growth.

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 653: Tax Relief in Times of Calamity

As we faced a number of terrible natural disasters in the past years, from super­ typhoons to earthquakes and flash floods, we saw the bayanihan spint of every Fihpino eager to give their time and resources to suffering Filipino families.

Unfortunately, with the Philippines being considered one of the most affected by the effects of climate change, we must brace ourselves for much more calamities in the years t0 come as well as create systems that ensure quick and efficient recovery from such disasters.

One such system that needs to be reevaluated with an eye for victims of calamities is our tax system. As such, this measure seeks to relieve our countrymen affected by terrible distress of the burden of taxes to encourage a quicker recovery.

This bill safeguards donations to victims of calamities by allowing organizations exemption from donor’s tax provided that at least 90% of the donations go directly to the affected community and not administrative costs.

In addition, this bill mandates real estate tax exemption for affected communities for two years from declaration of a state of calamity.

Lastly, in support of our local entrepreneurs who provide for their families and generate jobs within their community through business, business establishments affected by a calamity shall be exempted from tax payments for a period of one year after the


This measure adds to the various initiatives of government, civil society, and the private sector to strengthen our resilience to adversity and invigorate the spirit o bayanihan ingrained in the collective heart of Filipinos.

In view of the foregoing, the approval of this bill is earnestly sought.

Senate Bill No. 654: Tax Exemption Act for All Donations, Grants or Gifts to Non-Stock and Non-Profit Educational Inst.

The quest to improve the quality of education and improve the facilities of our schools and institutions is a collective effort that drav\/s like-minded advocates from government, civil society, and the private sector.

In many cases, the non-government sector is enthusiastic to assist the development of education in the Philippines with the hope that the next generation of well-educated Filipinos hold the key to leveling up the country and finally putting an end to longstanding issues that have plagued our nation, such as hunger, poverty, public transport, and even the patronage system that is entrenched in our culture.

It is our responsibility to encourage this enthusiasm and incentivize donations to non-stock and non-profit educational institutions in order to further our cause for improved education and educational facilities across the country.

While non-stock and non-profit educational institutions benefit from tax exemptions, donors aren’t granted similar incentives. This measure extends tax exemptions to donors, mandating that all contributions to non-stock and non-profit educational institutions be tax-exempt and deductible from their taxable income.

Through this bill, citizens with a heart for education can opt to donate hard-earned money, property, or other assets to the cause of education in lieu of contributing tax payments to the State.

Let’s embolden Filipinos to take a more active role in nation-building and have a choice in who benefits from their contributions. Together, all sectors of society can further the cause of quality education in the Philippines and produce intelligent, skillful, and conscientious young Filipinos.

In view of the foregoing, the approval of this bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 655: Philippine High School for Sports Act

The development of grassroots sports in the country has long been overdue. In order to be able to compete internationally on a sustained level in the different sports, a basic education program is needed that is focused and specialized for the youth who have the gifts and potential.

While many of our students have proved their excellence in mathematics, science, languages, and other subjects, we have also seen many young Filipinos who have achieved excellence through sports.

Our young athletes have paved their own roads to victory and international acclaim. Our country is home to world champions in boxing, bowling, swimming, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, shooting, and wushu, among others.

We have the opportunity to support young athletes and provide them valuable education along with quality sports training through the passing of the Philippine High School for Sports (PHSS) Bill.

The PHSS will offer, on a scholarship basis, a secondary course with special emphasis on developing the athletic skills o f the students through subjects pertaining to physical education and sports development.

It will then enable student-athletes to gain their secondary education while ensuring opportunities for their training, exposure and participation to sports competitions.

For a sports-loving nation like the Philippines, it is apt that an establishment of a high school for sports where the future Gilas and Azkals are honed, and future Paeng Nepomucenos and Eric Buhains are developed.

In view of the foregoing, immediate approval of this bill is earnestly sought. 


Senate Bill No. 699: People’s Fund Act

At a time when public funding is under intense scrutiny, when the Filipino people are crying out for full transparency and accountability, and when government is being called on to implement massive reforms, how can we ensure that it is the PEOPLE of the Philippines who ultimately have a say on where public funds are being spent?

The People’s Fund seeks to revolutionize public budgeting and funding by giving the taxpayers of the Philippines the choice on where a portion of their hard- earned money should go.

It allows an individual taxpayer to allocate five percent (5%) of his or her income tax to be allocated for any of the following:

  1. An accredited charity or civil society organization;
  2. A priority national or local government project;
  3. A legitimate political party.

Under this bill, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) shall establish the mechanism that would enable individual taxpayers to select beneficiaries upon filing of their annual income tax returns.

Meanwhile, an inter-agency committee led by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) shall determine the eligibility of respective organizations, and shall likewise set the conditions, guidelines, and reporting requirements for the receipt and use of the funds by the benefitting organizations.

This gives the Filipino public greater control over how their monies are spent, ultimately empowering Filipinos to support institutions and initiatives that they deem worthy.

In view of the foregoing ,the approval of the bill is earnestly sought.


Senate Bill No. 664: National Commission on Culture and the Arts

The Philippines is home to some of the most popular and internationally -acclaimed artists. Apart from dominating global singing competitions, the Philippines has also produced some of the best painters, designers, actors, composers, filmmakers, writers and dancers. Just recently, the Philippines was recognized at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival for Ma’ Rosa with a Filipina gaining the most coveted Best Actress award.

We take great pride in our National Artists as well as the myriad of other cultural symbols that represent our country.

To further develop our nation’s strong cultural and artistic tradition, this bill proposes to reorganize the National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) into an independent Department Of Culture and the Arts (DCA). This would elevate the existing commission into a Department, expanding its mandate and awarding the body with more authority in planning, coordinating and implementing the country’s programs for the conservation and promotion of culture and the arts.

The DCA would effectively house all major government arms related to Culture and the Arts, namely: the National Archives, the National Museum, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Komisyon ng Wikang Filipino, and the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

In joining forces, our cultural, linguistic and artistic national agencies will have the opportunity to develop cohesive programs aligned to the DCA mission and vision. The Department would also have the mandate to install regional DCA offices that will localize the development and recognition of artistic endeavors.

Moreover this bill endeavors to establish a specialized Arts program in all levels of schooling, to further entrench the artistic tradition and give more students the opportunity to develop their artistic skill under a rigorous program. 

In addition, the DCA would be in charge of handling the National Endowment Fund for Culture and Arts, providing grants for Filipinos rom all over the country to encourage artistic creation. 

With 175 different dialects in the Philippines, we have an extremely diverse population that carry rich artistic and cultural tradition that is valuable to our identity, as well to our economy. Should we continue to institutionalize programs that develop our Culture and the Arts, Filipinos will benefit from appreciating our rich culture as we proudly display our colors for the entire world to see. 

In view of the foregoing, the passing of this bill is earnestly sought. 


Senate Bill No. 651: National Coastal Greenbelt Act

Last year, super-typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) hit Eastern Visayas and left thousands of people dead.  Millions more became homeless and now, are struggling to cope with the loss of loved ones, life savings and livelihood.

Previous storms, Ondoy, Pablo and Sendong have wrought havoc to other cities and provinces in the past half-decade, crippling the economic and social development of the Filipino people. The Philippines is battered by more than 20 typhoons a year, with an increasing number in the super-typhoon category.  These could bring as much damage as Yolanda. The losses attributed were caused by storm surges and strong winds coming from the open ocean.  In the age of global climate change, this has unfortunately become the new normal.

The poor coastal communities’ natural exposure to storm surges and lack of resources for preparation and recovery make them most vulnerable.

It is imperative to think of innovative, sustainable and cost-efficient ways for Filipinos to protect themselves, their properties and communities from the devastating impacts of natural disasters.

The Philippines is taking great strides in disaster preparedness. Recent laws created the Climate Change Commission (R.A. No. 9729) and strengthened the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (R.A. No. 10121).  In addition, the People’s Survival Fund (R.A. No. 10174) was created to support adaptation activities of local governments and communities to increase their resilience.

Disaster preparedness comprises a whole suite of items, such as early warning systems, elevated shelters, hard engineering (e.g., breakwaters) and green engineering/infrastructure.

An establishment of greenbelts of mangroves and beach forests along coastlines is a proven green engineering intervention. As the Philippines’ 36,000 km coastline is among the longest in the world, coastal greenbelts effectively mitigate the damaging impacts of waves and storm surges. Some of the scientifically proven benefits are:

  • Wave height of wind and swell waves can be reduced by 13-66% over 100m of mangroves;
  • Storm surge attenuation of 5-50 cm. per kilometer width of mangroves;
  • Surface wind waves can be reduced by more than 75% over one kilometer of mangroves;
  • 50% reduction in storm surges by a 7-km band of mangroves.

Furthermore, coastal forests can reduce the force, depth and velocity of a tsunami, lessening damage to property and reducing loss of life.

Coastal greenbelts are also cost-effective for disaster preparedness in the long term. The total valuation of mangroves is estimated at US$14,000-16,000 per hectare, of which about 80% is for coastal protection value. The cost of establishing coastal greenbelts to protect against storm surge and tsunami would only be a fraction of the damages that could be brought by the yearly battering of typhoons.

A number of existing laws, policies and regulations on mangroves have been issued over the years resulting in a fragmented and conflicting policy environment. This bill aims to come up with a strategic program to rationalize the development of mangroves and beach forests for coastal protection; it is anchored on a comprehensive policy framework that addresses the fragmented approach in the past.

Establishing the National Coastal Greenbelt Program shall provide the agency mandates, funding, and general guiding principles for implementing a science-based and cost-effective program. The proposed National Greenbelt Program mandates establishment of 100-meter protection zones, initially for the Eastern Pacific seaboard, where typhoons make landfall. This Program can also reap added benefits. The establishment of science-based coastal greenbelts is expected to protect biodiversity, improve fisheries productivity, and enhance the tourism and livelihood potential of the area. Transforming vulnerable coastal villages into highly resilient and sustainable communities is a step towards a nation that is inclusive for all.

In view of the foregoing, immediate approval of this bill is earnestly sought.

Senate Bill No. 663: Nurse in Every Public School Act

Delivering quality education isn’t just a matter of delivering instructional modules inside the classroom. Quality education, that every Filipino child deserves, is holistic in nature. It is concerned with the whole self- physical, mental and spiritual.

With a fifth of the Filipino populace under the poverty line, health-related issues of school children abound, thus hampering their ability to learn and retain lessons and skills. Some students might even be forced to skip school days due to sickness, further impeding their ability to learn.

Thus, this measure proposes that students’ access to basic health care services in schools be assured by requiring every public school to employ at least one registered nurse to look after the health and nutritional needs of its students.

Nurses are as important as other support personnel in the school system.1 They attend to the physical and mental-health needs of students. They can even spearhead programs to promote nutrition and contribute health-related content in the curriculum.

Having a nurse in every school emphasizes the value of health, nutrition and well­ being as part of the formation of our Filipino children.

In view of the foregoing, immediate approval of this bill is earnestly sought.


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