Monday, March 3, 2014

Legarda Echoes UN Call for Safe Schools

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today echoed the call of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) for the Philippines to be a leader country in building safe schools.

Legarda, the UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation, made the statement as the UNISDR and the Department of Education, in partnership with the Office of Senator Loren Legarda, launched the UN Global Programme on Safe Schools in the Philippines.

“By safe, we mean that school buildings should be structurally sound and built on safe ground. We do not want a strong temblor killing hundreds of children studying inside their classrooms or a whole mountain of mud instantly burying children alive, like what happened in Barangay Guinsaugon,” she said.

The safe schools program invites citizens to participate in the process of making schools disaster-resilient with the initial step of assessing the safety of schools in their communities.

The Senator recalled that in 2006, 246 schoolchildren were among the more than 1,000 casualties in a landslide that followed several days of heavy rains in Barangay Guinsaugon, St. Bernard, Southern Leyte.

Meanwhile, in 2013, when typhoon Yolanda made landfall, even some evacuation centers were reached by the storm surge, instantly killing hundreds of individuals who thought they had already sought refuge. Yolanda damaged more than 3,000 schools, aside from other infrastructure, in the affected regions.

“It is estimated that annually, disasters affect 66.5 million children worldwide; and because children are among the most vulnerable to disasters, it is important that not only do we keep our children out of harm’s way, but also we make them part of building resilient communities,” said Legarda.

She explained that learning institutions and the youth should be directly involved in efforts to make communities safe from disasters. Children should witness and practice disaster risk reduction early on in life.

“If we inculcate in our children a level of disaster preparedness, this will be passed on to the succeeding generations when they become adults. This is what we aim with the safe schools initiative. We need safe schools; we need schoolchildren who are knowledgeable and informed about DRR. In making our nation disaster-resilient, we not only protect our young people, but also invest in our country’s future,” Legarda concluded.

P20-M PNP hostel to rise in NE

CABANATUAN CITY, Nueva Ecija – A three-story, P20-million hostel for the Philippine National Police will rise inside the provincial police camp here soon to serve as home to police officers in the province.
          The exquisitely designed hostel and multi-purpose building was unveiled during ground-breaking ceremonies inside the provincial public safety company compound fronting the Nueva Ecija Provincial Police Office here Monday.
          Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali said the facility, which will serve as the police officers’ “home away from home,” will be finished in six months. It was funded by the provincial government out of its realigned intelligence funds.
          Umali led the ground-breaking rites for the building along with PNP Chief Director General Alan Madrid Purisima, National Police Commission vice chairman Eduardo Escueta and Commissioners Alejandro Urro and Luisito Palmera and provincial police director, Senior Superintendent Crizaldo Nieves.
          Umali said the facility will house a conference hall in the ground floor, 10 mini-suites in the second floor and four suites in the third floor. He said the provincial police can hold their command conference as well as small gatherings and functions in the area which will be a wi-fi zone.
          He added that this is the first known provincial camp in the country where the local PNP will have lodging houses.
          Purisima said such facility will be a big help, particularly to transient officers and men and also to their families who come for a visit.
Nieves said that the facility is something the local police can be proud of. He said that such facility gives the local police a more dignified look and commands respect from the public.
          He said that the Umali administration has been very supportive of the PNP, citing the turn-over in recent months by the provincial government to the NEPPO of patrol vehicles and the construction of other amenities such as the PPSC headquarters and gymnasium plus training on the upgrading of police capabilities.   
          Umali, who is chairman of the Regional Peace and Order Council, said that his administration has been extending full support to the local PNP because it was instrumental in changing the image of the province from a political war zone into a zone of peace, referring to the spate of politically motivated killings .
          “Before, Nueva Ecija’s history was written in violence. I have to rewrite it and I can only do that if I have the support of the police,” he said in his speech.
          He said the province was so blessed to have Purisima – a Novo Ecijano - as the chief of the 148,000-strong police force.
          The governor said his administration has been extending assistance to the local PNP as a show of respect to the law enforcers, something which, he said, should be followed by other local government units in the province.
          “If you can give your life in the service, then the LGUs should pay respect to you by providing you with a decent and dignified place to live in,” he said.
          Umali said that year in and year out, the various police offices have been undergoing repair yet support is wanting. “It’s about time that if we really respect the PNP, let’s help them and not just talk,” he said, referring to the LGUs.

He said he is taking his hats off the PNP not only for transforming the image of the province but also for but also for its crime-busting efforts which resulted in reduced criminality. “You should wear your uniforms proudly,” he added. (Manny Galvez)          

Drilon, P. Cayetano urge colleagues to pass graphic health warnings on cigarette packs

MANILA-Senate President Franklin M. Drilon along with Senator Pia S. Cayetano introduced a measure on Monday which requires tobacco companies to display graphic labels on their products depicting the full health consequences of smoking, the latest of legislative efforts aimed at reducing the smoking incidence rates in the country.  

“The bill is necessary in order to strengthen the government's efforts to discourage smoking among our citizenry. Smokers have to be informed and made fully aware of what will happen to their health every time they pick up a cigarette pack," Drilon explained.

In his sponsorship speech, Drilon said the proposed picture-based health warning law seeks to increase the awareness of the public especially among the youth on the harmful and deadly effects of smoking.

He stressed that the measure’s passage is “of vital importance in the health situation of the country,” saying that the country has to badly address the unabated rise of cigarette smokers amongst Filipinos.
“The Philippines still registers as having one of the highest smoking incidences in the Western Pacific Region, even with measures like the Sin Tax Bill in effect. A much more decisive government action on this issue is then evidently required,” he said.

Based on the estimates done by the Department of Health, 87,600 Filipino die annually, or about ten Filipino deaths for every hour, due to smoking-related complications. Also, cigarette smoking costs an estimated P188 billion in annual health care expenses and productivity losses.

Cayetano, in her co-sponsorship speech, urged for a more decisive government action on smoking, in order to help stem large-scale human death smoking causes: "More than 5 million people die each year from direct tobacco use, while more than 600,000 people die from second hand smoke. With current smoking patterns, around 500 million people die will eventually die from tobacco use." 

Drilon then pointed to the main objective of the bill: “the passage of this proposed measure will bring closer to our goal of protecting the present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke.”

Under the bill, tobacco products have to display picture-based health warnings in full colour with accompanying text warnings that will be printed on at least 60 percent of the principal display surfaces for any tobacco package. The warnings will show the dangers of tobacco smoking or passive smoking, following guidelines to be issued by the Department of Health.

Drilon reasoned that graphic-based warnings on tobacco use are more effective than text-based warnings in educating the public about tobacco-induced health complications: “When we look at other countries where this system has been set in place, they were able to reduce the incidence of smoking in their respective jurisdictions."

Cayetano, for her part, stressed: "while many tobacco users know tobacco is harmful, studies show that most people are unaware of its true risk. Studies have also shown that picture-based warnings are much more effective than text warnings alone."

Both senators have been active in government campaigns against smoking and related health issues. Cayetano had authored and sponsored two earlier versions on graphic health warnings in the previous 14th and 15thCongress. Meanwhile, the Senate President has been active in furthering anti-smoking policies in the country, foremost among which is the passage of the Sin Tax Reform Act in 2012. 

Legarda: Invest in Safe, Resilient Schools

MANILA-Senator Loren Legarda today reiterated her call for both the government and the private sector to ensure that all schools in the country are safe from disasters.

Legarda, the UN Champion for Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation for Asia-Pacific, made the call as the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), the Department of Education, and the Office of Senator Loren Legarda are set to launch “The Philippines as a Leader Country of the UN Global Programme on Safe Schools Towards the 2015 World Conference on DRR.”

“It is important to make our schools disaster-resilient to keep our children, who are most vulnerable to disasters, out of harm’s way when natural hazards strike. Aside from being a shelter for children, schools are critical public infrastructures, especially in times of disaster when victims need emergency refuge. Therefore, schools must be able to withstand earthquakes, typhoons and other natural hazards,” she said.

Legarda explained that the Safe Schools Campaign of the UNISDR is a global program that aims to encourage governments and communities to assess the safety of schools and build the resilience of these critical structures.

The program invites citizens to participate in the process of making schools disaster-resilient with the initial step of assessing the safety of schools in their communities not only in terms of ensuring the structural integrity of the buildings but also in making sure that students and school staff are prepared in the event a natural hazard occurs.

To facilitate the assessment of school safety in the country, an innovative online system for crowd-sourced hazard-and-risk mapping of schools will be introduced.

 “Safe schools are essential to ensuring that our children are safe from disasters and injuries and thus beneficial to their general health and development. The government must fortify and enhance the structural integrity of public schools, while the private education sector should be encouraged to do the same,” Legarda said.

“Building the resilience of the education sector is a worthy investment. It brings the double benefit of saving lives and achieving our development goals,” she concluded.


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