Breastfeeding advocates vs. “Breastfeeding Promotion and Infant Regulation Act”

August 15, 2012 10:23 pm 

MANILA, Aug. 15 – Breastfeeding advocates are lobbying for the rejection of House bill “An Act Promoting a Comprehensive Program and Breastfeeding Practices and Regulating the Trade, Marketing and Promotions of Certain Foods for Infants and Children.”

They claim the bill, if passed, will destroy the innate power of breastfeeding that aims to protect the Filipinos’ next generations’ health and wealth.

Sen. Pia Cayetano, chairman, Senate Committee on Health and Demography and Senate Committee on Youth, Women and Family Relations, said:

”I express my full support to breastfeeding advocates and I also wish to raise a red flag on a pending measure which I feel may do a lot of damage and reverse the progress we continue to strive for to promote the culture of breastfeeding.

"I am an advocate, not just in principle, but because I was a breastfeeding mom.”

She said in the House of Representatives there is a pending measure that claims to be pro-breastfeeding, pro-mother, pro-child.

She said: “Unfortunately, I have studied all existing breastfeeding policies in the country and I say this with all humility:

"That this measure cannot be counted as pro-breastfeeding, pro-mother and pro-child because it diminishes the existing benefits that have already been accorded to mothers as breastfeeding mothers.”

She said the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act (RA 10028) which she sponsored is a corollary law that supports EO 51 or the Milk Code, and creates other rights, like the right of nursing mothers who are working to express their milk in the office and get paid lactation breaks.

According to Innes Fernandez, lead convenor of Save the Babies Coalition, the true intention of the proposed consolidated bill is to water down the Milk Code.

Fernandez said the bill includes provisions authored by Reps. Magtanggol Gunigundo I, Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel, Lani Mercado-Revilla, Lucy Torres-Gomez and Rufus Rodriguez that undermine breastfeeding and indulge milk manufacturers.

She said in the proposed House bill, milk companies will be allowed, among others, to advertise their products intended for children over six months; conduct promotion on breastfeeding and child care.

She stressed all these provisions are prohibited under the Milk Code.

In their position paper, Save the Babies Coalition said the “consolidated bill does not serve the interest of the Filipino people, rather it propagates the commercial interest of the multinational milk companies.”

For his part, Akbayan Party Rep. Walden Bello said the bill pending consolidation in the House Committees on Health, and Trade and Industry, seeks to lower the limit of promotion of infant formula or milk substitutes from the current zero to two-year-old standard to only zero to 6-months.

According to Bello, the measure advocates have dubbed the measure “Milk Monster Bill”.

It tries to hide the fact that breastfeeding is not only the most healthy option, it is also the “most economically-viable option” for poor mothers and babies in poor communities.

Bello also cautioned policy makers against the disaster that the proposed revisions to the Milk Code presented public health policy, especially because the measure will in effect permit massive advertising of milk formulas that is otherwise prohibited in existing laws.

”This policy effectively gives multinational corporations the free reign in creating public demand for formula milk,” he said. “this will make for a big jump in sales, which already stands at some P30 billion – very good for business, but very bad for Filipino families.”

Bello urged the 205 signatories to the measure to resist the propaganda of milk companies and turn their backs against the “Milk Monster Bill”.

Various medical professional organizations, likewise, released a position statement on the bill in question, expressing dissent over the attempts to “substantively amend the existing breastfeeding-related laws” which have shown positive impact in improving breastfeeding rates in the country.

The medical professionals also reaffirmed their role as responsible health professionals who work conscientiously towards decreasing child mortality.

They particularly oppose the provision allowing donation of infant formula during calamities in evacuation centers for sanitary reasons.

The other group, Save the Children, a child rights organization, also opposing the proposed bill declared that “the modifications will only advance business and profit interests of milk companies” and called on communities, local government units, legislators, to uphold the rights of Filipino families by dismissing any changes to the landmark Milk Code.

The breastfeeding advocates are working with various sectors, groups and individuals to help “kill the bill”. (PNA)hbc/MAGI

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