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A bill that seeks to grant additional benefits to solo parents has lapsed into law without the signature of President Rodrigo R. Duterte, a copy of the law showed.

Republic Act (RA) 11861 or the Expanded Solo Parents Welfare Act, which amends several provisions of RA 8972, lapsed into law on June 4.

Under the new law, the definition of “solo parents” is expanded to include spouses or any family member of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are in the low/semi-skilled category and are away from the Philippines for an unbroken period of 12 months.

An amendment also includes grandparents and family members or qualified guardians who bear sole responsibility for the child.

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RA 11861 directs the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) secretary, in coordination with other agencies, to develop a “comprehensive package” of social protection services for solo parents and their families which includes livelihood opportunities, legal advice and assistance, counseling services, parent effectiveness services, and stress debriefing, among others, regardless of financial status.

The DSWD, in coordination with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), must also establish and maintain a “centralized database” of all solo parents who have been issued solo parent identification cards or booklets.

The law entitles a solo parent to a monthly cash subsidy of P1,000 per solo parent who is earning a minimum wage and below, to be allocated by the concerned city or municipal government.

It also provides a solo parent who is earning less than P250,000 annually with a 10-percent discount and exemption from the value-added tax on infant milk, food, micronutrient supplements, and sanitary diapers purchased, duly prescribed medicines, vaccines, and other medical supplements purchased from birth and until six years of age.

On top of leave privileges under existing laws, solo parents will be granted a seven-day parental leave with pay regardless of employment status. Solo parents will also be given priority in a telecommuting program.

It also provides scholarship programs for solo parents and a full school scholarship for one child of a solo parent in institutions of basic, higher, and technical vocational skills education as well as automatic coverage under the National Health Insurance Program being administered by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation with premium contributions to be paid by the national government.

The law adds a section declaring the third week and third Saturday of April of every year as Solo Parents Week and National Solo Parents Day, respectively.

RA 11861 is a consolidation of Senate Bill 1411 and House Bill 8097 that were passed on January 24.

Senator Risa Hontiveros dedicated the law to her fellow solo parents.

“I’m intimately familiar with the feeling of not being sure how to pay for my children’s tuition, not knowing who can accompany me if one of them gets sick,” she said in a statement.

Hontiveros’ husband, Francisco Baraquel Jr., died in 2005 due to severe asthma. They have four children.

One of the relevant provisions included in the law, Hontiveros noted, is granting the right to a solo parent to receive benefits until the child is 22 years old.

The law usually cuts allows benefits to children until 21 years old only.

“As senator of the 18th Congress, I had never felt such a strong grassroots, on-the-ground push for a bill to become law,” she added.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri congratulated all solo parents in the country.

“Saludo po ako sa inyong lahat at kasama niyo kami sa pagbibigay ng maayos na buhay sa inyong mga anak (I salute all of you and we are with you in providing your children a better life),” Zubiri said in a social media post. (PNA)

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