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Senate OKs Magna Carta for the Poor, creation of National Commission of Senior Citizens

The Senate approved on third and final reading Tuesday bills championing the welfare of the elderly and the poor.

Senators passed Senate Bill No. 2159 creating the National Commission of Senior Citizens (NCSC) and the Senate Bill No. 2121 or the Magna Carta of the Poor.

Under SB 2159, the National Coordinating and Monitoring Board, which was created by Republic Act 9994 or the “Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010” and composed of heads of different government agencies, will be abolished.

Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, acting chairman of the Senate committee on social justice, welfare, and rural development in the absence of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, said the NCSC will be under the Office of the President and will be composed of a chairperson, which will be the chief executive officer, and six commissioners representing different geographical regions and shall hold office in their respective regions.

An executive director, who will be appointed by the commission, will manage and supervise the commission’s daily operations.

The NCSC shall also formulate policies for the promotion and protection of the rights and well-being of senior citizens and establish and maintain cooperation and consultations with local government units and national government agencies on all matters pertaining to the general welfare of senior citizens.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is imperative to safeguard the rights of senior citizens and ensure the proper execution of their programs for their well-being.

“Filipinos have close family ties and the senior members of the family continue to support and provide for the family as long as they can. In this way, they find a strong sense of purpose, importance and fulfillment in this latter part of their lives. Also, being able to take care of themselves and not be a burden to their family brings them pride and self-actualization,” he said.

Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, said that while there is an Office of Senior Citizens Affairs (OSCA) in cities and municipalities, there is no central leadership to guide policies on a national scale and to ensure that senior citizens receive equal opportunities regardless of their place of residence.

The creation of NCSC also reaffirms the Philippines’ commitment to empowering the elderly, as a signatory to the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Ageing: Empowering Older Persons in ASEAN which was adopted on November 21, 2015.

According to the Population Commission, senior citizens in the country in 2018 could be eight percent of the total population, or 8.013 million.

The United Nations Population Fund projected that the senior population in the Philippines is expected to hit 23.63 million by 2050.

Meanwhile, SB 2121, also authored by De Lima, seeks to “assuage the ills that hamper the rise of the members of this society who have been left helpless for the longest time.”

Under the Magna Carta of the Poor, government shall implement systems that will ensure that the poor has the right to adequate food and undertake necessary actions to mitigate and alleviate hunger especially in times of calamities or natural disasters.

The government shall also be tasked to fully implement and maintain supplementary feeding programs in day-care centers and schools, and ensure the availability, accessibility, and sustainability of food supplies in a quantity and quality sufficient to meet the daily dietary needs of poor individuals and families.

"With the help of non-government organizations and other partners, the government shall also proactively engage the poor in activities intended to promote their food self-sufficiency and strengthen their access to resources and means to ensure food security," Trillanes said.

Under the measure, government agencies such as the Department of Health (DOH), the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Agriculture (DA) and other pertinent agencies including the private sector, shall be tasked to guarantee that the rights of the poor to adequate food, decent work, free relevant and quality education, adequate housing, and highest attainable standard of health will be met.

“The state shall ensure that the welfare of the people will be the true measure of progress and stability on accord with sustainability and fiscal realities,” Trillanes said. —LDF, GMA News