PNoy speech at the signing of four pro-poor legislative measures

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Remarks
by
His Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III
President of the Philippines
After signing four legislative measures: extending the implementation of the lifeline rate for electricity; extending the existence of the Joint Congressional Power Commission; allowing the employment of women night workers; and providing for mandatory immunization services for children
[As delivered at Rizal Hall, Malacañan Palace on June 21, 2011]
Our administration was voted into office because our people believed in the promise of change—the promise of being able to walk into a hospital and see a doctor when they or their children need to; the promise of being able to overcome the widespread poverty that has for so long crippled this nation; and the promise that our administration would create in this country a level playing field for people and businesses alike.
Today, with the help of our allies in Congress, and with the help of those involved in drafting and in getting these measures approved, I have signed these bills that will move us not one, but four steps closer to fulfilling these promises.
I signed the Mandatory Infants and Children Health Immunization act, which requires that all children under five years old be given basic immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases. Specifically, this bill provides for all infants to be given the birth dose of the Hepatitis-B vaccine within 24 hours of birth. Hepatitis-B can be a crippling disease as it can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer, among others. It is not fair that the vaccine against Hepatitis-B can only be afforded by a privileged few. We are doing this to give these children and their families more access to health care, which the more privileged among us often take for granted. For this, I want to thank House Representatives Susan Yap and Jun Abaya, as well as those of Senators Pia Cayetano and Chiz Escudero.
I also signed a bill to extend the lifeline rate for electricity, which lessens the burden of electricity bills on low-income families. The extension of this measure will allow the less fortunate among us to put more of their resources into feeding themselves, or into saving enough to pay hospital or medicine bills. In short, extending this lifeline rate allows those shackled by poverty to focus more of their resources into keeping themselves and their families alive, while also giving them access to electricity. So I want to congratulate House Representatives Henedina Abad, Rufus Rodriguez, Ben Evardone, as well as Senators Chiz Escudero, Serge Osmena, and the Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for doing this for our less fortunate countrymen.
Fulfilling the promise of eliminating poverty cannot be done in one stroke; and these two measures, however seemingly minor they are, will certainly affect the lives of our people.
Today, we are also leveling the playing field both on the macro and micro levels. And this is why I also signed an act extending the period of existence of the Joint Congressional Power Commission. This commission was established ten years ago with the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, which sought to bring about reforms in the power sector. The JCPC was tasked to make sure that these reforms took place and to foster an environment of healthy competition in the sector. And now, ten years later, we still find it necessary to have a commission paying sufficient attention to this particular sector, and overseeing the continuing reforms. And thus we similarly find the continued existence of the JCPC necessary. For championing this extension, the Filipino people have House Representatives Arnulfo Fuentebella, Henedina Abad, and Senators Serge Osmena and Chiz Escudero to thank.
On the micro level, I signed an act allowing the employment of female night workers, an act which we classified as a priority bill in the last LEDAC. Right now, industries, specially our BPOs, who are hiring women workers to perform night work are first required to secure an exemption from the Department of Labor and Employment–and the strange thing is that this is not necessary in hiring male workers for the same assignment. We cannot have this type of legal technicality giving rise to sexual discrimination, especially in this day and age. And that is why we have moved as quickly as possible to amend this. The signing of this act is also an economic measure because many women in the BPO sector have been unduly prejudiced by this legal accident; and we must also do everything we can to protect our position as industry leaders. On behalf of the Filipino people, I would like to extend gratitude to House Representatives Rufus Rodriguez and Emil Ong, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Kiko Pangilinan for their diligent public service in drafting this bill.
These may be small steps forward, but they embody our intention to stay true to what we promised the Filipino people.
We are not satisfied yet. And these bills we are signing today do not mean we can rest. In fact, these bills symbolize the beginning of even more work, even more long nights of discussions and arguments, even more programs and support legislation to be instituted and passed all for the benefit of our people. These bills are only part of the foundation of the Philippines we want to build.
I know these issues are only a few problems out of many, but they serve as reminders of the small road bumps we will undoubtedly encounter as we tread the straight path for the next five, 10 or even 20 years. Let’s face it, today’s signing ceremony is not something you will see on the front pages of our newspapers—my signing of these measures will not automatically eradicate poverty and inequality altogether—but in their small ways, these bills make the lives of our citizens better. Today, for me, is just another day in public service, and our country asks of us to put in more of these shifts, to burn the midnight oil a bit more, to do the most we can to fulfill the hopes of our people. So now that these bills have been put into law, let’s get back to work.
Again, let me thank the entire composition of both chambers of Congress, and especially the hardworking, and never tiring, floor leaders. Thank you and good day.