MANILA, Philippines – Advocates and supporters of breastfeeding have come together to prevent the passage of a measure which they referred to as a “monster bill.”
“An Act Promoting Comprehensive Program on Breastfeeding Practices in the Philippines,” which was filed before the House of Representatives, states that breastfeeding employees will no longer be compensated when they express milk during work hours.
Under the existing Breastfeeding Act of 2010 or Republic Act 10028, employees are granted compensated break intervals of not less than 40 minutes for every eight-hour working period.
Inez Fernandez, director of Arugaan, said 205 congressmen have already signed the draft bill.
“Hindi na kailangan ng bill because we already have enough laws. What we want is to keep that law, defend it, and promote it and support it. This milk monster bill will destroy and will contribute to irreparable damage,” Fernandez said.
Iza Abeja, director of the Beauty, Brains and Breastfeeding (BBB) group, for her part said: “We want to convince congressmen to withdraw their signatures because most of the provisions there are already part of RA 10028 and it’s already part of the law.”
Senator Pia Cayetano, who authored RA 10028, believes that the new measure will “diminish the existing benefits that are given to breastfeeding mothers and to children.”
“I’d like to raise a red flag on a pending measure which I feel may do a lot of damage in promoting breastfeeding,” Cayetano said during the Breastfeeding Declaration of Commitment held in Quezon City last week.
“If you do not know the existing policies, the existing practice, madali mong sasabihin on its face, maganda ito. But you have to compare it sa existing policies and practices for you to really understand it. I tell you now, tinataya ko po ang pangalan ko, na hindi po ‘yan papasa sa Senado hangga’t ako po ang chairman ng committee on women and health,” she added.
Cayetano said she is backing the call of advocates for lawmakers to retract their signatures favoring the proposed measure.
No to milk formula ads
Breastfeeding advocates are also against the advertising of milk formula and allowing health and nutritional claims of milk companies.
According to Fernandez, legalizing these ads for babies above six months will affect breastfeeding mothers.
“Kasi they’ll be back to work and nandiyan ang patalastas na may nutritional claims na gifted child, 100% nourishment, mako-confuse ang moms and their ability to express their breast milk production and supply. Kasi alam ng milk companies na maaapektuhan ang confidence,” she explained.
Cayetano, meanwhile, said: “Marketing has to be restricted. You cannot just market because it undermines the success of breastfeeding.”
The network of advocates from BBB, Arugaan and LATCH (Lactation Attachment Training Counseling Help) and supporters from various government agencies held their first Breastfeeding Congress last year.
In their manifesto, they pledged their full support to the effective execution of breastfeeding policies and laws in the country. They also vowed to mobilize various groups and sectors to create a supportive environment for breastfeeding at home, in the workplace, and in public spaces.
“The fight to promote, protect and support breastfeeding is a fight against poverty, malnutrition, morbidity, and mortality among children under fiver years of age. No Filipino child should die because of health risks associated with infant formula and other practices that compromise their health,” they said in their manifesto.