By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday commended members of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) for rescuing two mentally-impaired residents in Agoncillo, Batangas who were found locked up and left behind by their families during the Taal volcano eruption.
Citing the incident, de Lima stressed the need for lawmakers to consider the passage of a bill, creating a national council that would be tasked to ensure the welfare of persons with developmental disabilities (PDDs), especially in times of natural disasters.
“Lubos po tayong humahanga at nagpapasalamat sa ating Philippine Coast Guard sa pagsagip sa dalawa nating kababayan na PDD na naiwan at napabayaan nang ilang araw sa kanilang lugar dahil sa pagsabog ng Bulkang Taal, (We admire and thank our Philippine Coast Guard for helping our PDDs who were left behind for many days in their place due to the eruption of the Taal volcano),” de Lima said.
“Ang insidenteng ito ay patunay na kailangan ng marami sa ating mga kababayan ang tamang pagsasanay at payo para pangalagaan ang mga kamag-anak nilang may developmental disabilities, (This incident only proves that many of our people need to learn and be guided on how to care for their relatives who have developmental disabilities),” she added.
It was last January 19, when the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council of Batangas alerted the PCG after receiving reports that two PDDs were left behind during the evacuation of those affected by the Taal volcano’s eruption.
According to authorities, local rescuers found these two PDDs starving after not eating for days and they immediately responded and provided them with food and water.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said it was during these difficult times that citizens suffering mental illnesses, and those with disabilities need the help of their families.
“This is why I humbly urge my colleagues to consider the passage of Senate Bill No. 855, which, among others, will empower family members and guardians of those with developmental disabilities with proper training and assistance,” she added.
The bill, which she filed last August, calls for the establishment of a Developmental Disability Council that will be tasked, among others, to provide psycho-social training to family members of those with developmental disabilities.
It also calls for the continuing education, information and training programs and lectures on the proper handling of persons with developmental disabilities of family members, guardians and public servants concerned in their own communities.
“Nananawagan po ako sa bawat isa: nawa’y manatili tayong nakatutok sa mga kababayan nating may kapansanan (So continue to call on everyone that we all stay focused on our kababayans who have disabilities),” the lawmaker added.
Once enacted into law, the government will be mandated to keep a databank and information and monitoring system (IMS) on the demographic, socio-economic and incidence, type and prevalence of PDDs in the country.
The senator pointed out that currently, the government does not have a national data tracking system that caters to the state of developmental disabilities in the country.
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