Hontiveros vows to push hard for divorce law in Philippines

Robie de Guzman   •   August 5, 2019   •   1148

Senator Risa Hontiveros

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday vowed to push hard for the passage of divorce law in the country as she met with groups advocating for its legalization.

Hontiveros, who chairs the Senate Committee on Women, met with five advocacy groups including the Divorce Advocates of the Philippines (DAP), Boses ng Kababaihan, Divorce for the Philippines Now International (DIPI), Divorce Philippines Coalition (DPC), and Divorce and Dissolution of Marriage Philippines (DDoMPh).

The lawmaker, in filing the Senate Bill No. 356 or the Divorce Act of 2019, sought to make “psychological incapacity of either spouse,” “irreconcilable marital differences,” marital rape, or being “separated for at least 5 years” grounds for divorce, among others.

Hontiveros said meeting with these groups is in preparation for a “historic fight to free Filipinos from abusive, loveless and unhappy marriages.”

“This is history in the making. This meeting marks an important stage in the larger work to have a divorce law in the country. It’s time that we gave Filipinos the chance to free themselves from abusive, loveless and unhappy relationships, and to help them find love and start all over again,” Hontiveros said.

However, some senators have said they are not inclined to support the bill.

READ: Senators may likely back dissolution of marriage than divorce – Sotto

“I will definitely oppose it,” said Senator Joel Villanueva when asked about his thoughts on the proposal being revived in the Senate.

Villanueva has previously expressed strong opposition to the divorce bill, insisting that the Philippines is a Christian nation where marriage is considered sacred.

“Banal na sakramento ang kasal, at naniniwala po tayo na hindi po dapat payagan, in general concept hindi dapat paghiwalayin ng tao,” he said.

Senators Cynthia Villar and Manny Pacquiao are also not in favor of the bill.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III, meanwhile, said senators are more likely to support the measure if it is not called “divorce.”

“Mukhang mas madali, karamihan sa amin, mas madali kung pag-uusapan namin ay dissolution of marriage,” Sotto said in an interview.

Aside from Hontiveros, Senator Pia Cayetano also filed her version of absolute divorce bill that seeks the legal termination of marriages by Philippine courts.

Hontiveros said her office is now in the process of consolidating the different versions of the bill, setting the appropriate committee hearings and talking to like-minded legislators.

“I believe in and support the institution of marriage. I myself was happily married. However, I also believe that Filipinos, especially women and their children have the right to second chances to turn the page and live good and happy lives. This measure is for them,” she said.

WHO, UNICEF express concern over polio outbreak in PHL, call for urgent action

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Thursday expressed concern over the re-emergence of poliovirus in the Philippines 19 years after it was declared polio-free.

The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) earlier announced an outbreak on polio after a case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur. Environmental samples from sewage in Manila and waterways in Davao also tested positive for the poliovirus.

READ: Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

“We are very concerned that polioviruses are now circulating in Manila, Davao, and Lanao del Sur,” WHO Representative in the Philippines, Dr. Rabindra Abeyasinghe said in a joint statement with UNICEF.

“It is deeply disconcerting that poliovirus has re-emerged in the Philippines after nearly two decades. The outbreak calls for urgent action to protect more children from being infected,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Oyun Dendevnorov said.

The agencies said the polio outbreak in the Philippines is confirmed to be from a circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2.

This is of particular concern, as wild poliovirus type 2 was certified as globally eradicated in 2015, they added.

Polio mainly affects children under five years of age and vaccination is their only and best protection against the highly infectious disease.

But if immunization activities are poorly conducted and too few children have received the required three doses of polio vaccine, the agencies said this can leave them “susceptible to poliovirus, either from vaccine-derived or wild polioviruses.”

“Full immunization protects them from both forms of the virus.”

“It reminds us of the importance of increasing immunization coverage to 95% of children to stop polio virus transmission in the Philippines… As long as one single child remains infected, children across the country and even beyond are at risk of contracting polio,” Dendevnorov said.

Prior to the declaration of the outbreak, the DOH and its partners launched a polio immunization campaign in the City of Manila. Further mass polio immunization rounds will be rolled out from October 2019.

The WHO and UNICEF both vowed to work closely with the DOH to strengthen surveillance and swiftly respond to the outbreak.

They also echoed the DOH’s call for parents and guardians, especially in affected areas, to have their children vaccinated for their protection against diseases.

“We urge all parents and caregivers of children under 5 years of age to have them vaccinated so that they are protected against polio for life.”

The WHO and UNICEF assured the oral polio vaccine (OPV) is a safe and effective vaccine that has saved millions of lives since its introduction in 1988.

The agencies explained that when a child is immunized with OPV, the weakened virus contained in the vaccine replicates in the intestine for a limited period, thereby developing immunity by building up antibodies.

If a population is not sufficiently immunized, the weakened virus can continue to circulate. The longer it is allowed to survive, the more changes it undergoes.

“In rare instances, the virus can change to a vaccine-derived poliovirus (VDPV), a form that has regained the ability to cause paralysis,” they said.

The WHO and UNICEF likewise called on local governments to help ensure that immunization campaigns are planned and implemented effectively.

They also reminded families to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly with soap and water, use a toilet, consume food that is fully cooked, and drink safe water.

The two agencies are among the partner-organizations under the Global Polio Eradication initiative (GPEI) supporting the Philippine government’s response by providing technical advice and on-the-ground monitoring and risk communication.

The GPEI is a public-private partnership led by national governments with the WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UNICEF, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Its goal is to eradicate polio worldwide.

Public urged to join DOH vaccination program as polio re-emerges in PHL

Robie de Guzman   •   September 19, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III on Thursday called on the public to join in the government’s synchronized vaccination program on polio following confirmation of its re-emergence in the country.

Duque said one polio case was confirmed in a 3-year old girl from Lanao del Sur.

A suspected case of acute flaccid paralysis is also awaiting confirmation, he added.

Based on the results of the child’s examination, she is suffering from vaccine-derived polio virus type 2.

The DOH chief also said that poliovirus has been detected in water sewage samples taken from Manila and Davao during a regular environmental surveillance.

The samples were tested by the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine and verified by the Japan National Institute for Infectious Diseases and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The health secretary said the Philippines has been declared polio-free in the last 19 years and its re-emergence in two different locations already suggests an epidemic.

“A single confirmed polio case of vaccine-derived polio virus type 2 (VDPV2) or two positive environmental samples that are genetically linked isolated in two different locations is considered an epidemic in a polio free country,” Duque said.

Polio is a highly infectious viral disease which spreads rapidly. It can cause paralysis and, on rare occasions, can be fatal.

The DOH said there is no cure for polio and it can only be prevented with multiple doses of polio vaccines that have long been proven safe and effective.

In response, the government will launch a series of synchronized oral polio immunization program for children under the age of five in areas at risk beginning next month.

The health chief urged parents and guardians to protect their children from the disease by fully participating in the program.

“We strongly urge parents, health workers and local governments to fully participate in the synchronized polio vaccination. It is the only way to stop the polio outbreak and to protect your child against this paralyzing disease,” he said. 

DOH said it will also work closely with local government units and concerned agencies in implementing rapid response to the polio outbreak with the help of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The department will also work with partners to strengthen environmental and Acute Flaccid Paralysis surveillance throughout the country to detect poliovirus.

“Aside from immunization, we remind the public to practice good personal hygiene, wash their hands regularly, use toilets, drink safe water, and cook food thoroughly,” he said.

Palace: Duterte will not set aside arbitral ruling on joint oil exploration with China

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 12, 2019

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (L) and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping (R) pose for posterity prior to the start of the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on August 29, 2019.

The Malacañang insisted that President Rodrigo Duterte will not set aside the West Philippine Sea arbitral ruling for the joint oil exploration with China.

This was after former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert Del Rosario slammed the president’s statement.

“[Because the] exclusive economic zone is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity,” President Duterte was quoted saying during the oath-taking of the Malacanang Press Corps on September 10.

Vice President Leni Robredo expressed dismay over what she referred to as ‘irresponsible’ statement of the chief executive.

However, the palace said President Duterte is not setting aside the decision of the Hague Arbitral Tribunal, as well as the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of the country.

According to Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo, the negotiation between the Philippines and China will remain.

“The setting aside doesn’t mean that we will abandon it. what the president means, as we have repeatedly said, and as he has said too, the arbitral ruling is still subject to talks between two countries, negotiation is ongoing peacefully, meanwhile we focus on other concerns may mutually benefit the two countries,” he said.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

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