“Dapat talaga lahat ng functions ng early childhood, nasa ECCD Council na, wala na sa DSWD”, EDCOM 2 Co-Chairperson Sen. Gatchalian said during a roundtable discussion of government agencies implementing nutrition and feeding programs on July 27, 2023.
“The law is very clear: policy, standards, accreditation ng mga day care, lahat dapat sa kanila na”, he continued, stressing the need for the Council to take responsibility for early childhood programs.
The roundtable discussion was attended by EDCOM 2 Co-Chairpersons Sen. Gatchalian and Rep. Roman Romulo, together with Advisory Council member Ms. Olivia Lucas, representing E-Net Philippines, and Standing Committee Member Elvin Uy. Government agencies represented were the Department of Education, ECCD Council, Department of Social Welfare and Development, National Nutrition Council, and the Department of Interior and Local Government.
Gov’t think tank: Malnutrition a problem of fragmentation
Dr. Valerie T. Ulep, Senior Research Fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, explained that the issues with malnutrition must be resolved with a “package” of solutions.
“When you look at the system, it’s highly fragmented – someone is delivering this, but the child, after six months, will not receive the complementary feeding anymore. So it’s a constant assault to the body…and if we fail to deliver a comprehensive package, then we fail [to solve this problem]”, Dr. Ulep continued.
Dr. Ulep stressed that the different government agencies must work together to deliver a coordinated set of interventions to address stunting and malnutrition. “We should look at things in a package, not a single program that will address stunting in an instant”, he said.
Resolve coordination issues
The issue of coordination between government agencies was raised by EDCOM 2 Co-Chair and Pasig City Representative Roman Romulo. During the discussion with the ECCD Council, Planning Officer Karl Jeffrey Sabalza narrated how the agency convened only once every quarter, rather than once every month as prescribed by the Early Years Act of 2013. “For this year, we’ve only had one meeting so far”, he said.
“Besides these meetings, hindi ba dapat mayroon na kayong mechanism na nagkikita kayo regularly to be able to report to the council itself kung paano ‘yung progress – naiimplement ba ng DSWD, ng DepEd, ng whoever implements the [early childhood program]?”, Rep. Romulo asked. “We’re seeing lapses talaga. Hindi puwedeng ‘nagawa mo na’, then ‘hindi ko na bureau ‘yan’”, he continued.
“At the very least, do you have a chat group amongst the different departments concerned – wala rin? Baka naman, after this meeting, pwede na kayong bumuo ng some way of communicating with one another on a daily basis?…Set up something that will enable you to talk to each other daily”, Rep. Romulo stressed.
“The ECCD Council is a very powerful council, it’s a well-thought-out council. But you need to meet. Without meeting, there’s no communication”, Sen. Gatchalian added.
ECCD must assume responsibility for early childhood programs
Senator Gatchalian pressed that the ECCD Council must assume responsibility for all ECCD programs moving forward, in anticipation of a Memorandum of Agreement between the two agencies.
“Dapat si [ECCD Executive Director Teresita Inciong] should be ready for that responsibility. [The MOA] is basically transferring everything ECCD from DSWD to the ECCD Council – so you guys have to be ready”, Sen. Gatchalian continued, speaking to Sabalza. “Kayo na ang responsible for all activities for ECCD”.
Mobilize local governments for nutrition delivery
Senator Gatchalian also stressed the need to mobilize local government units to deliver nutrition and feeding programs in their respective areas.
“Without mobilizing them, it’s going to be very difficult…I really believe that it has to be a carrot-and-stick approach, wherein the agencies can provide incentives and technical assistance, but with the mobilization, we need the support of DILG to do that..because it is only DILG who has that supervisory powers over local government units. If we don’t mobilize the local governments, rest assured that one year after, we’re still here – the problems are still the same”, Gatchalian stressed.
Senator Gatchalian filed the Basic Education and Early Childhood Education Alignment Act (Senate Bill No. 2029), which seeks to ensure the alignment of the ECCD curriculum and the K to 12 basic education curriculum. The proposed measure also seeks to mandate greater responsibilities on LGUs on the implementation of ECCD programs. EDCOM 2 Commissioner Sen. Sonny Angara has also filed Senate Bill No. 1759, which seeks to strengthen the ECCD system in the country.