Groups urge ‘stronger tobacco control to save lives
“Tobacco control saves lives.”
This was the message of the state tertiary hospital Lung Center of the Philippines on Tuesday during an art installation of 321 pairs of shoes and slippers in their main lobby to commemorate the 321 Filipinos who die every day due to tobacco-related diseases.
“We need an ecosystem of policies that will make it easier for Filipinos to quit the deadly habit of smoking,” said Dr. Jessica Catalan-Legarda, Chair for Advocacy of the Lung Center of the Philippines. The art installation is part of the hospital’s World No Tobacco Day activities.
“Raising taxes on tobacco products and banning their advertising, promotions, and sponsorships are just some of the policies needed to create a healthier environment for Filipinos,” she added.
“Quitting smoking is not just a matter of personal responsibility,” said Dr. Glynna Ong-Cabrera, Lung Center of the Philippines’ Smoking Cessation Program Manager and Department of Health (DOH) Quitline Project Director. “Every day, 321 Filipinos die because tobacco companies continue to sell and market their addictive and deadly products,” she said. “Tobacco products are designed to make it difficult for smokers to quit, putting them at risk to develop tobacco-related diseases which may eventually lead to death,” she also said.
Public interest law group ImagineLaw, co-organizer of the art installation, maintained that “tobacco companies’ business model thrives on addiction and death”.
“Tobacco companies are neither our friends nor allies,” said Atty. Sophia San Luis, the law group’s executive director. “As we enter into a new administration, we urge our new set of leaders to be vigilant and reject any attempt by the tobacco industry to prevent the implementation or worse, roll back life-saving tobacco control measures,” she said.
The art installation composed of 321 pairs of footwear is open for viewing until Friday, June 3, 2022.
LEARNING RECOVERY IS A COMMUNITY EFFORT – PARENTS, TEACHERS
Parents, teachers, and education advocates on Wednesday urged for strengthened local and community-based interventions to help improve early grade learning (kindergarten to grade 3), amid the pandemic.
“Education is a community effort. Lahat dapat magtulungan (We need to help each other),” said Quintin Atienza, Education Governance Manager of the ABC+: Advancing Basic Education in the Philippines (ABC+ Project), an initiative of the Department of Education (DepEd) supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and RTI International.
“Education, especially early grade education, is not the responsibility of the education sector or DepEd alone. Everyone, from the local government units (LGUs) to the private sector, has an important role in helping teachers and parents improve early grade learning,” Atienza also said during a webinar with education stakeholders.
Because of the pandemic, regular face-to-face classes have been suspended and shifted online for almost two years now. “Distance learning poses a challenge to improving early grade education,” shared Eden Capapas, a grade 2 teacher from Roxas City. “Interaction between students and their teacher, an important process for literacy, numeracy, and socio-emotional learning, is strained in an online set-up,” she said.
“In an online set-up for children in the early grades, parents are stepping into a bigger role for their children. We are essentially secondary teachers,” said Emilyn Luceña, a parent-leader from Iriga City, in Filipino. “Because of this, our capacities and skills are also being put to the test,” she added.
Local problems with local solutions
“These are local problems that can have local solutions. Community-based programs targeting parents, teachers, and learners have to complement national government efforts,” urged John Patrick Sedantes, Executive Director of CHILDInitiative, a partner of ABC+ Project in Western Visayas.
“Assistance from the LGU, private sector and community leaders can build parents’ capacity on the use of gadgets and other learning materials so that we can better help our children in their online classes,” he said. “Donations from the private sector and earmarked funds from the LGU can go to supplementary learning materials, gadgets, internet devices, and learning hubs, among others,” he also said.
Education platform for early grade learning urged
Candidates for the upcoming local and national elections should also commit to improve early grade education in the country and bare their education platform and learning recovery plan, urged Roy Layosa of the Coalition for Bicol Development, a partner of ABC+ Project in Region V.
“Education is an election issue. Candidates who wish to be our new set of leaders should present their education platform, including a learning recovery plan from the two years of online classes, especially now that Filipino children are being vaccinated and DepEd is piloting limited face-to-face classes,” Layosa said. “What is the post-quarantine set-up for Filipino early grade learners and how do we ensure that no Filipino child is left behind?” he asked.
US gov’t congratulates DepEd
The United States (US) government, through USAID, also extended its congratulations to DepEd during the webinar. “We would like to congratulate DepEd for the successful implementation of the limited face-to-face classes,” said Yvette Malcioln, Acting Director of Education of USAID in the Philippines.
“[C]ommunities were able to mobilize ways to make sure that modules and learning materials reach children and that they continue learning – a testament to the Filipino spirit of bayanihan,” she added. “The U.S. government, through USAID, is a proud partner of the Philippine government in improving the education of children,” she concluded.
On May 28, the Women’s Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR) and the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN) led an online rally to amplify demands regarding women’s health amid the pandemic. Attended by a hundred women from various sectors, the rally is in line with the global commemoration of the International Day of Action for Women’s Health with the theme, “Women’s Health Matters: Ending the Inequality Pandemic and Ensuring Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights remain essential!”.
“COVID-19 has impacted us all, but we are not all impacted equally. It exposed and exacerbated long-standing social and gender inequalities that are manifested in many forms across contexts,” according to Marevic Parcon, Executive Director of WGNRR, in her opening remarks.
According to Parcon, this year’s campaign focuses on how the pandemic affects women, girls, and non-binary people’s health, especially those in the grassroots communities.
The rally featured interventions from leaders of various basic sector and community-based organizations, representing health workers, women human rights defenders, working women, rural women, indigenous women, urban poor women, and young people.
Flora Assidao-Santos from women’s group Oriang brought out concerns of urban poor women in accessing healthcare. According to Santos, poor women are not entertained in healthcare facilities because they are poor and are not prioritized for local interventions such as pre-natal and post-natal check-ups.
PINSAN spokesperson and EnGendeRights Executive Director, Atty. Clara Rita Padilla also criticized local government units for returning contraceptives to the national government with the “lame excuse” of lack of demand.
“Many poor women may want to use but cannot afford contraceptives. It is the job of the national and local governments to increase awareness on contraceptive information, supplies, and services to generate more demand for contraceptives,” Padilla said.
Poverty (kahirapan), along with fear (pangamba) and [worries over] their children’s futures (kinabukasan ng kabataan), was also cited by women from Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayuan (National Rural Women’s Congress) communities as the biggest barriers to women’s health. Meanwhile, women from Indigenous Peoples communities and those living in the Bangsamoro called for accessible public healthcare services as well as livelihood support.
Dr. Edelina Dela Paz of People’s Health Movement and Health Action Information Network noted how strict lockdown measures are gravely impacting people’s economic needs, as well as their health, as they risk their lives to go outside to work. She also decried militarized responses to the pandemic, citing contract tracing being done by the police instead of health workers. “[The pandemic is a] health issue, not a militarist issue,” she said.
“The online rally has really served to ground our demands this Day of Action for Women’s Health. We cannot view women’s health myopically. There needs to be structural change to address long-time neglect of women’s health and needs,” ED Parcon said in a comment after the forum.