The advocacy for the Nutrition and Dietetics (ND) Bill has been a tremendous challenge especially for nutritionist-dietitians who are not familiar with how legislation works in the Philippines. The arduous task of lobbying and connecting with legislators in the House of Representatives and in the Senate has been faced with courage and determination by the Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines (NDAP), including Member Benefits Committee headed by Ms. Josephine Jamon. With assistance from a lawyer, lobbying started in 2013 up to 2014 when NDAP found its champions in the House of Representatives and in the Senate to craft a bill intended to update the Nutrition and Dietetics Act (Presidential Decree 1286 enacted in 1978) which regulates the practice of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Philippines.
NDAP delegation led by President Adela Ruiz and Legislation Chair JP Jamon supported the filing of the ND Bill by Rep. Neri Colmenares in the House of Representatives; lobby with House Speaker Sonny Belmonte and with the Legislators who sponsored the bill.
The ND bill that was filed in the House of Representatives (HOR) was crafted from the draft made by NDAP after a series of round-table discussions with the sponsoring legislator. The bill which became House Bill No. 4742 was filed in July 2014 coinciding with the celebration of the Nutrition Month. The bill was sent to the Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation of the 16th Congress. In August 2014 the ND Bill was filed and became Senate Bill No. 2356 which was sponsored by the Chair of Civil Service & Government Reorganization Committee. The ND bill in the Senate was routed to the different government agencies concerned with Nutrition like the National Nutrition Council and the Department of Health and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology, among others to solicit their comments. When questions, comments and suggestions needed to be addressed in the bill, NDAP actively participated in clarifying provisions or in the crafting of amendments.
NDAP officials and members took turns in attending Committee hearing in the Upper and Lower Houses of Philippine Congress. The House Committee on Civil Service and Professional Regulation scheduled hearing on the ND bill in March 2015 where NDAP President Ruiz served as spokesperson of the lobby group. The Committee approved HB 4742 subject to style and amendments. In May 2015 some 20 registered nutritionist-dietitians (RNDs) representing various areas of practice including Board of Nutrition & Dietetics Chair Virgith Buena of the Philippine Professional Regulation Commission, sought audience with Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congressman Feliciano (Sonny) Belmonte to lobby for HB 4742. The bill passed second reading after comments were consolidated from the different House Committees like Appropriations
and Budget and became House Bill 6077. The ND bill passed the third and final reading in the Lower House on October 9, 2015 and was transmitted to the Philippine Senate on October 21, 2015.
In the Senate, the ND bill underwent amendments and was substituted with another bill - SB 2582 which was filed on January 2015 but did not sail as smoothly. NDAP members had to repeatedly attend sessions but the ND bill was not tackled due to additional amendments brought about by interpellation from a concerned Senator. It took a year for the ND bill to pass second and third reading in the Senate.
NDAP Lobby work with Philippine Senators and attendance to Senate Hearings
The ND bill still has to go through a bicameral committee to arrive at a common version which will be submitted to the President of the Philippines for his signature to become a law. Due to the impending national elections in May 2016 where some Congressmen and Senators are candidates for higher positions, the NDAP group has to be vigilant to help expedite the process by working with the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office and the Committee on Rules of both Houses. RNDs are hopeful that the ND bill will be enacted into law before the 16th Congress ends on June 2016; otherwise NDAP will start again with the advocacy and go through the same process in the 17th Congress commencing July 2016 until June 2019.
There were many lessons learned in advocacy, lobbying and legislation procedures. When the ND bill is enacted into law, NDAP still has to be proactive so that the implementing rules and regulations of the law will capture the reforms envisioned with the upgraded legislation covering the practice of Nutrition and Dietetics in the Philippines.
Prof. Dr. Adela Jamorabo-Ruiz, RND
Nutritionist-Dietitians’ Association of the Philippines