Rhia Muhi

Angela Bruce-Raeburn speaking with Congressman Sarmiento at a photo exhibit in support of the Motor Vehicles Act at the Congress of the Philippines

It had finally happened.  After three years of dedicated public health advocacy, Filipinos watched the President sign Republic Act 11229 into law.  “An Act Providing for the Special Protection of Children Riding in Motor Vehicles” mandates that children under twelve use a Child Restraint System (CRS) when traveling in private vehicles.  The bill’s passage and adoption were the culmination of media and public awareness campaigns, meetings with policymakers and detailed legal analysis.  It was also, we all understood, only the beginning.

Passing a law, even one to support global best practices for health and safety, doesn’t improve public health on its own.  Political will is necessary to ensure the law gets implemented and enforced.

In the Philippines, implementing rules and regulations (IRR) must be completed within six months of a law’s publication.  The IRR define how the law will be communicated to the public, which regulatory agencies will govern its implementation and appropriate enforcement practices.

Soon after the law was adopted, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) convened a stakeholder workshop with the Global Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and the World Health Organization.  The workshop brought together interested parties to discuss all aspects of implementation, including possible enforcement challenges and the role of regulatory agencies such as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Trade and Industry, which is responsible for setting CRS standards.

Each stakeholder had specific needs.  For example, prior to the workshop, we traveled to DOTr’s offices at the outskirts of Manila, where government officials told us they wanted to reference global best practices.  They also wanted to learn from the experiences of countries that had passed similar laws.

We also included members of the IRR Technical Working Group, the lawyers tasked with drafting the regulations.  They will need to make sure the regulations are technically sound and avoid conflict with other laws.  GRSP brought in a CRS expert, and other stakeholders shared information and additional questions.  All of them have a role in building the buy-in and practical frameworks that will take the process forward.

As we approach the six-month milestone, the Technical Working Group has already presented its first working draft at a public consultation.  Meanwhile, we’re helping DOTr develop a communications strategy to educate the public.  We know from previous experience that communicating the existence of a new law can have long-term consequences for enforcement.  We will support more public hearings with GRSP, and continue working toward implementation one step at a time.  It requires coordination among a lot of partners, but we all have the same ultimate metric of success: how many children’s lives will be saved?

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