10 March 2014

Imagine Schools without Soft Drinks. Imagine the Youth in Nation-Building. (Sponsorship Speech for the Healthy Beverage Options Act)

Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo,
and Healthy Beverage Options Act advocate and 'Soda Slayer'
Chip Magno Gatmaytan with his parents, Dr. Cielo Magno (UP School
of Economics) and Atty. Dan Gatmaytan (UP College of Law).

Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao delivered this sponsorship speech during the 10 March 2014 hearing of the Committee on Basic Education and Culture for the initial consideration of House Bill No. 4021 (Healthy Beverage Options Act), which she authored with Camarines Sur Rep. Leni Robredo.

Madam Chair, my dear colleagues, good afternoon.

Our Constitution declares  that “the State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building.” In turn, it shall bear the responsibility to promote the welfare of young people, which includes their physical health.

The Healthy Beverage Options Act is a proposed measure that seeks to be one of the responses that we can offer in order to fulfill what our Constitution states.

Once this bill is passed into law, unhealthy beverages will be prohibited from being sold or provided in basic education institutions. Various studies have proven time and again that beverages such as soft drinks and those with high sugar content are detrimental to the health of our children. The Department of Education has already implemented this bold move within our public school system. Several private schools have also followed their lead. At this juncture, it is time for us to cement this policy into law, which would then enable us to cover even private elementary and high schools. Aside from this, the measure will also mandate the availability of better beverage options such as water, milk, and natural fruit juices, as well as the duty of schools to educate students on healthy food choices.

At this point, I will not focus on the consequences to health brought about by sodas and other drinks that are high on sugar. I will let our esteemed resource persons from reputable institutions from the health sector discuss such matters.

Now, I want to zero in on another effect of soft drinks on our children.

International studies have shown that beverages that are high on sugar provide negative repercussions to not only the health of children. Sodas or soft drinks have been found to contribute to behavioral problems among teenagers and children. An article in Time Magazine states that “among children 5 years old, according to the latest research, those drinking more sugar-sweetened sodas showed increased aggression, withdrawal and difficulty paying attention than those drinking fewer or none of the beverages.”

Now we see that there is a deeper problem.

A study in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion says that “recent research has identified potential links to violence, depression, suicidal thoughts and suicidal behaviour” with the rising consumption of carbonated soft drinks among teenage children.

As I mentioned earlier, the Constitution declares “[t]he State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”

How can we assist young Filipinos in their role in nation-building if they are subjected to elements that affect not only their bodily health, but also their minds? Substances that prevent them from maximizing their potentials in a positive way must be taken out of the equation in their socializition in the basic education system. It is in our firm belief that unhealthy beverages that have negative effects to the bodies and minds of our children must be regulated.

Perhaps the best example to convince my fellow lawmakers to support this proposed measure is the young boy who approached me and requested me to file the Healthy Beverage Options Act. Chip Magno Gatmaytan is the epitome of the youth involved in nation-building and in public and civic affairs. He’s only ten years old and he has not taken a sip of soft drinks ever. Can you imagine more young people like him? Can you imagine Filipino school children who are healthy in both mind and body as they grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow? I can, especially once this measure is passed into law.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair. For the welfare of the Filipino children, let us enact the Healthy Beverage Options Act at the soonest possible time. 

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