RESOLVING 10 key issues affecting children has been the focus of the Lapu-Lapu City Government.

These are poverty, dysfunctional families, access to quality education, abuses committed against children, mental health, bullying, teenage pregnancy, peer pressure, juvenile delinquency, and gender discrimination.

Mayor Junard "Ahong" Chan bared his efforts for children's welfare during his State of the Children's Address at Hoops Dome in Barangay Gun-ob on Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2022.

The report was part of the observation of 30th National Children's Month, which is celebrated every November by virtue of Republic Act 10661 which mandates the recognition of children as the most valuable assets of the nation.

The mayor said poverty is the first on the list of issues affecting children because several adults, including parents, lost their jobs and livelihoods during the Covid pandemic.

Lost of jobs resulted in hunger in some families and malnutrition of children, according to Chan.

The City Government, said Chan, has been striving to solve joblessness and malnutrition by tapping the services departments and offices of the local government unit.

These are the Public Employment Services Office, which helps job seekers land a job; City Social Welfare and Development (CSWD), which provides seed money to those who wish to start a small business; City Health Department (CHD), which helps respond to the issue on malnutrition; and the City Council, which may allocate additional budget to arrest malnutrition upon the recommendation of the CHD, after a thorough assessment of the problem.

As to the issue on dysfunctional families, Chan said he instructed the creation of a Facebook page solely for children’s concerns. City residents may also report abuses committed against children or any children they know of who are victims of abuse. The page is called “Isumbong Ni Mayor Ahong Chan, ang amahan sa kabataan sa dakbayan.” A devoted helpline will also be designated for this purpose.

Noting that part of Lapu-Lapu City ’s territorial jurisdiction are 11 island barangays, Chan said the City will donate motorized bancas to the islands of Caubian and Caohagan which will transport the children who wish to acquire formal education in the neighboring island of Olango.

Apart from that, the mayor said the construction of a bridge connecting Pangan-an to Sabang has already commenced. He did not state if this was a footbridge or a concrete bridge.

The bridge will bring ease to the travel of students in Pangan-an who attend school in Barangay Sabang in Olango, adding that the City Government will also distribute school supplies next year to help defray the costs of parents in sending their children to school.

He also announced that a Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) training center is expected to open next year in Olango Island, a partnership between the City and Tesda.

"This will give equal opportunity to everyone in Olango and nearby islets to enroll in any of the course offerings. Along with vocational courses, Tesda will be introducing a two-year course in engineering," he said.

Chan said he also instructed the City Engineering Office to prioritize the renovation of dilapidated school buildings as well as the repair of classrooms, which he said, has already commenced.

Abuses

Meanwhile, the mayor said he will request the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to closely monitor barangays in their compliance with the implementation of the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004 to address the abuses committed against children.

Chan also promised to ask the City Council to pass an ordinance requiring barangays to establish a separate desk devoted solely to hear children’s complaints.

He said a counterpart office in the CSWD will also be established for the said purpose, adding that they may also refer cases of abuse at the helpline.

To address the concern on children's mental health, Chan said a free regular mental health checkup and consultation is organized by the CSWD once a month at the Liberty Shrine in Mactan and once a month in Olango.

He said the City's partner mental health professionals also conduct free lectures on mental health issues as they intend to bring these lectures to schools and communities to reach a wide spectrum of individuals, including children.

Chan also noted bullying as the most common among children but should be given serious attention since it can lead to death if not addressed immediately and properly.

With this, he asked the City Council to explore the possibility of passing an ordinance penalizing parents of bullies so parents would take seriously upon themselves the role of disciplining their children.

As for teenage pregnancy, Chan said the problem in the city is quite alarming.

He said a total of 411 child maternal deliveries were recorded which comprises 5.66 percent of the city’s total maternal deliveries in 2021. This year, the reported child maternal deliveries has increased to 529.

As he intends to have immediate interventions, Chan requested the Department of Education (DepEd) to revisit its manual on sex education to gauge its effectiveness.

On the City's part, Chan tasked the Local Council for the Protection of Children to conduct a massive information drive on this concern highlighting the adverse effect of teenage pregnancy and the life that awaits them in the future.

Peer pressure, Juvenile delinquency

To address peer pressure among the children, particularly students attending school, Chan said he trusts the school administration for both public and private schools to come up with a program to arrest the said issue.

"Perhaps, a retreat or a recollection will do," he said

Concerning juvenile delinquency, Chan said this can be best addressed by first addressing the factors that bring such conditions, particularly poverty and peer pressure, among others.

He noted that a lot of children in the city, who are considered children in conflict with the law, are currently undergoing a rehabilitation program at the Home Care Center for Children after committing violations such as stealing and possession and use of illegal drugs.

Apart from that, Chan also charged the Lapu-Lapu City Police Office to conduct round-the-clock patrolling of the city streets and implement the curfew ordinance and penalize the parents of apprehended minor offenders.

Gender discrimination

The mayor said passing an anti-discrimination ordinance is one of the top items in his agenda since he cannot turn a blind eye to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or LGBT sector for he himself is a proud father of his LGBT son and an ardent supporter of equality among genders.

"As the father of the City, I wish to see you, my sons and daughters, living harmoniously as co-equals, living comfortably in a community where there is equal opportunity for everyone, a community where there is no bullying or peer pressure, a community free from poverty, and any form of social ills," he said. (MKG)