A labor group on Sunday opposed moves in Congress to amend Republic Act No. 10028, or the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, and revises the provisions rendering a time for breastfeeding babies during work hours.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) argued that an amendment to the law would undermine the gains made in curbing malnutrition among babies.
According to TUCP president Democrito Mendoza, a measure consolidating House Bills 3535, 3527 and 3396 proposes to make noncompensable the time a mother breastfeeds her baby in the workplace during work hours.
The bills were sponsored by Representatives Anna York Bondoc, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Lucy Torres-Gomez, Rufus Rodriguez, Magtanggol Gunigundo and Josephine Lacson-Noel.
“If this is allowed by our legislators, it is like tolerating sexual harassment in workplaces. We are going to fight this tooth and nail,” said Mendoza in a statement.
Mendoza noted that the bills appeared to be against the advocacy promoting breastfeeding while being milk- and pharmaceutical firms-friendly, and providing big businesses “greater avenues” to push their products solely for commercial gain.
Under the current Milk Code, breastfeeding women in the workplace are compensated for lactation breaks of not less than 40 minutes during an eight-hour work period, he pointed out.
“It is antiworker and antiwomen to have unpaid lactation hours at the workplace for working mothers… it prejudices lactating workers who have a right to equal pay for equal work and it is antiwomen because it discriminates against lactating women who have a right to work while providing the best nutrition for their babies,” he said.
The group described moves to amend the breastfeeding law as “reactionary and unfair,” emphasizing that the current law has been cited by the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and World Health Organization as a model for other countries to emulate.
The WHO has been advocating exclusive breastfeeding for six months as key to curbing malnutrition and infant mortality. It said that breastfeeding was an “unequaled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants.”
In a regional meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, the WHO cited the Philippines for its “Unang Yakap” program, which promotes breastfeeding and works to lower the infant mortality rate in the country. Jocelyn R. Uy