By Mario Casayuran
Detained opposition Sen. Leila M. de Lima has urged the Senate leadership headed by President Vicente C. Sotto III to address the longstanding hygiene and sanitation issues in public schools which may not only put the health of students at risk but also negatively impact on their performance in class.
From her detention cell at Camp Crame, Lima filed Senate Resolution 950 urging the appropriate Senate committee to review the status of the implementation of Presidential Decree (PD) No. 856, known as “Code on Sanitation of the Philippines,” to determine the challenges and issues concerning its enforcement.
De Lima is facing alleged illegal drugs-related charges.
The lady lawmaker underscored the need to further strengthen existing laws on sanitation by proposing meaningful legislation on the matter.
“The deplorable hygiene and sanitation have been a long-standing problem and issue in the country and yet solutions to this still seems farfetched,” she said.
“There is an utmost need to conduct a reassessment of the implementation and level of compliance of public schools regarding Presidential Decree (P.D.) 856 considering that it has been 43 years since its implementation,” she added.
While under the law all schools should have potable water, sewage and waste disposal systems, around 3,628 public elementary and secondary schools in the country have no regular access to safe and clean water, according to official data in 2016.
Citing the harmful effects of unsanitary practices in schools, De Lima recalled an incident in August 2017 when some 160 high school students from Sta. Lucia High School, Novaliches were rushed to different hospitals after experiencing stomach aches, headaches, and vomiting upon buying and drinking fruit shake from their canteen.
De Lima said a similar incident alarmingly happened a year earlier in Makati City where some 126 students were rushed to the health center after intaking snacks bought from their school canteen.
Meanwhile, a Commission on Audit (COA) report on the implementation of the Code on Sanitation on Region 10, particularly in Cagayan de Oro City, revealed that the Code has not been strictly enforced in schools, noting that there was an apparent lack of accessible water and sanitation facilities in many schools.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate social justice, welfare and rural development committee, maintained that the government has the duty to protect the youth by ensuring that they are prevented from any diseases, especially when they are in school
“Such poor hygiene and sanitation facilities, especially in learning environments like the school, are detrimental to the lives and health of the Filipino youth and failure of the government to provide one of the basic necessities in life constitutes a grave moral deficiency and reckless disregard for their lives and safety,” she said.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), health problems like intestinal worms, frequent stomach aches and diarrhea are signs of poor sanitation which needs to be addressed especially in learning environments like the schools because these diseases reduce the child’s capability to “concentrate and learn.”