As the body count of drowning victims in recent typhoon-triggered floods continue to rise, a bill making mandatory swimming and survival lessons as part of the K-12 basic curriculum started to draw strong support in the House of Representatives.
However, members of the House Committee on Basic Education who deliberated on House Bill 6574 on Friday admitted that mandatory swimming lessons in all public and private elementary schools face serious problems that could snag its passage into law.
Nueva Ecija Rep. Ria Vergara, who quickly saw the rationale behind the bill and asked that she be included as co-author, recalled that she would have taken swimming schools during her youth but her parents refused for fear of the dangers it brought.
Baguio City Rep. Mark Go also noted the scarcity of swimming pools that will provide the venue for the program.
Authored by Reps. Macnell M. Lusotan (Ang Marino Partylist) and Rolando Uy (PDP-Laban, Cagayan de Oro City), HB 6574 provides that swimming lessons and water safety and survival training be offered to students at any period within their first grade to senior high school in basic education.
Lusotan appealed for approval of the bill, pointing out that the swimming lessons and water safety and survival have become imperative among children in view of the worsening climate situation in the country.
He noted that the annual average of 3,276 drowning incidents from 2006 to 2013 indicated that 40 percent or about 160 children have died.
“Our children must be equipped with the skills and knowledge that will allow them to survive calamities and prevent accidental drowning, for it is not only the duty of our country to protect our children, but every children’s right to be safe as well,” Lusotan stressed.
Committee chairman and Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo (NUP, Pasig City) said parental approval indeed poses a serious problem for approval of the measure.
Romulo also aired concern over the safety of children to be trained, noting that accidents could happen and that pinpointing liability will be an issue that should be addressed.
However, the Philippine Sports Commission saw in the bill not only a way to keep minors safe during floods, but also as an opportunity to develop the country’s chance of making a mark in international swimming competitions.
“We believe this will give us the opportunity to develop a strong breed of athletes in swimming,” said PSC’s Queenie Evangelista during the virtual committee meeting.