De Lima urges swift Senate action on visual care bill

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“We should realize that visual impairment could adversely result to loss of productivity and income among affected Filipinos, to poverty and social dependency.”

Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has urged her Senate colleagues to help push for the immediate passage of a measure creating eyecare clinics nationwide to address the growing prevalence of vision impairment, including blindness, among Filipinos.

De Lima said she hopes the Senate will prioritize the deliberation of Senate Bill (SB) No. 1694, or the “National Sight Strategy Plan Act”, after World Health Organization (WHO) warned of a staggering 2.2 billion people suffering from visual impairment.

“I hope that this occurrence will push my esteemed colleagues in the Senate to act with dispatch on my proposed bill and help pass it into law soon, considering that the high incidence of vision defects poses serious public health issues,” she said.

“Eye care should not be overlooked by the State when it comes to public health because any form of visual defect can impede learning and diminish the general well-being of individuals suffering from it,” she added.

According to the latest figures from the WHO, at least 2.2 billion people suffer from vision impairment or blindness globally, of whom 1 billion have a vision defect that could have been prevented had they received proper eye care or has yet to be addressed.

WHO noted that among the main culprits of the rising number of individuals living with vision impairment include, among others, aging populations, changing lifestyles and limited access to eye care, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

Note that the WHO has ranked the Philippines among the three countries in the Western Pacific that account for the most incidence of blindness in the region.

Under SB No. 1694, which De Lima reintroduced this 18th Congress, the Department of Health (DOH) shall formulate a National Sight Strategy that provides a comprehensive national plan of action to address the prevalence of vision defects, including blindness, in the country.

As part of the National Sight Strategy, De Lima proposed that all national and local government healthcare facilities, such as hospitals, medical centers and clinics, shall be made available for the establishment of eyecare clinics manned by competent eyecare professionals, including ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians.

In pushing for the passage of SB No. 1694, De Lima who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, reminded her colleagues to also look at the implications of visual impairment to the country’s economic growth.

“As I have said before, we should realize that visual impairment could adversely result to loss of productivity and income among affected Filipinos, to poverty and social dependency,” she said. (30)

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