MANILA, Philippines?Militant party-list members in the House said their proposed mandatory child nutrition program in public elementary schools and barangay health centers would be a ?better alternative? to the Aquino government?s increasingly controversial P21-billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.
Teodoro Casiño and Neri Colmenares, members of the Bayan Muna party-list group, are the authors of the child nutrition bill pending in the House that they said would go a long way toward improving attendance records in school, which is one of the goals of the CCT.
The nutrition program would also improve children?s survival rate, they added.
?We can actually do away with the CCT program and realign its P21 billion to health and education,? Casiño said.
The CCT, a program of cash subsidies for the poorest Filipinos that was started in the previous Arroyo administration, has lately been the target of criticism because of the Aquino administration?s decision not just to continue it but also to allot a large budget for it.
Under the CCT, the country?s poorest families will be given monthly cash incentives for as long as they send their children to school and pregnant mothers go for regular check-ups in public health centers.
Bayan Muna said the proposed child nutrition law would be a better alternative to the CCT since the program would be comprehensive, integrative and sustainable.
The program intends to achieve improved child attendance and survival rates in day care centers and schools by seeing to it that the children have access to health and nutrition programs throughout the early childhood years, Casiño said.
A component of the program is a system to identify, prevent and intervene in developmental disorders and disabilities in early childhood. This is something that the CCT does not have, Casiño said.
The proposed law would also impose benchmarks for the mandatory nutrition program, he added.
If passed, the child nutrition law will be implemented by the health, education, agriculture, social welfare and development, interior and local government, trade and industry and budget departments, as well as the National Economic and Development Authority and National Food Authority.
Casiño also said the proposed child nutrition program would be more transparent and not prone to abuse, unlike the CCT.
It will be funded from existing allocations from the general fund, confidential and intelligence fund and the funds for automatic debt servicing, he said.
He also said the program would target the prevalence of underweight children, as reported by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) in its 2008 survey.
The survey found that 3.35 million children aged 0 to 5 years old are underweight. Another 3.57 million children below-average height. The number of underweight children aged 6 to 10 years old also increased to 2.6 million in 2008, the FNRI added.