THE Senate passed on third and final reading on Monday, March 5, a bill providing nutritional supplements to both mothers and children during a child's first 1,000 days of life.

With 18 affirmative votes, zero negative vote and zero abstention, Senate Bill No. 1537 - known as the Healthy Nanay and Bulilit bill - allocates P1.7 billion for the expanded nutrition and health program.

Among the highlights of the bill are:

  • Nutritional supplements will be provided to 650,000 high-risk women and 300,000 babies from poor families yearly;

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  • Vitamin A drops will be administered to almost 3.3 million 6- to 23-month-old infants while iron supplements will be given to 3.8 million pregnant women and half a million babies;

  • Some 2.7 million one-year-old and below babies will be inoculated against hepatitis B, polio, measles, mumps and rubella; while 2.7 million pregnant women will be vaccinated against tetanus and diptheria;

  • Deworming of 3.7 million children below 2 years of age as well as girls 10 to 18 years of age;

  • Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines will be provided to 1.4 million children age 1-year-old and below; and

  • Fortify 4 million metric tons of flour and ensure that 50 million of Filipinos will have access to iodized salt.

“These are just a few of the commodity deliverables. Equally important are provisions that will train, empower and orient government agencies on the mainstreaming of the 1,000 days template in their program," said Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto.

Recto said it’s about time that the government focuses on the growth of the future generation.

“While the rest of the world is growing taller , so to speak, the Philippines will remain stunted if we do not act fast to solve undernutrition—which will prove costlier to society in terms of loss of productivity, than the P1.7 billion budget it will entail to implement this 1,000 days program,” Recto said.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, vice-chair of the Senate committee on health and demography said Senate Bill No. 1537, is a significant action in combating malnutrition in the first one thousand days of life of each Filipino.

“Ensuring that every child receives the adequate nutrition and is provided the critical health services during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, allowing them to perform better in school, more effectively fight off diseases, earn more as an adult, and become healthy productive citizens,” Hontiveros said.

Co-authors of the bill include Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health; Recto; Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Grace Poe, Cynthia Villar, Joel Villanueva, Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Richard Gordon, Sherwin Gatchalian, Gregorio Honasan II and Leila de Lima.

The said bill also strengthens the enforcement of Executive Order No. 51, or the “Milk Code,” and Republic Act No. 10028, or the “Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009,” which promotes optimal infant and young child feeding and maternity protection. (PS Jun Sarmiento/SunStar Philippines)