January 29, 2017
Fathers, adoptive parents to benefit from expanded maternity bill too
"To lengthen maternity benefits is to safeguard our nation's future."
This is according to Senator Sonny Angara who explained that the longer period will free up time for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies, and in turn, ensure their child's nutrition.
In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that the Philippines has a breastfeeding rate of only 34 percent for infants younger than six months, missing the 50 percent breastfeeding target of the World Health Assembly where the Philippines is an endorsee.
As a result, 3.3 million Filipino children aged 5 years old and younger are stunted, based on the latest national nutrition survey.
The first 1,000 days of a child's life, covering nine months in the womb and the months before their second birthday, is the critical window particularly in preventing child in stunting and wasting.
Angara, who has also been pushing for the passage of the First 1,000 Days bill, cited studies that show that if a child's nutrition is assured during this period, it would not only prevent more child deaths per year, it would also improve school attainment thus increasing wages and reducing poverty because well-nourished children more likely to escape poverty as adults.
"Any measure that helps break the perennial or the inter-generational cycle of poverty, perhaps the most persistent problem of our country, deserves our full support," he stressed during his co-sponsorship speech on Senate Bill 1305 or the Expanded Maternity Leave Act, which extends the number of days of paid maternity leave from the current 60 to 120.
Angara thanked Senator Risa Hontiveros, chair of both Senate committees on health and women, for prioritizing the measure.
"Putting mothers first and providing them utmost care is one of the most binding things in societies across the world," he said.
In addition, under SB 1305, 30 days of the proposed 120-day maternity leave are transferrable to alternate caregivers including the child's father, the mother's common-law partner, and relatives up to the fourth degree of consanguinity.
Adoptive parents of minor children are also entitled to 30 days of parental leave.
"Every mother--every parent for that matter--should be afforded ample time and opportunity to care for their children," said Angara, a father of three.
The senator further assured that investments needed to implement this measure will lead to enormous returns for the country which may not be felt in the short term but will have a positive impact in the long term.
"Doubling the number of paid maternity leave days would definitely incur costs to businesses and to productivity, but its social and familial benefits far outweigh the costs for sure," he added.
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