Philippine Laws: March 2010

Here are summaries of some of the new laws that were approved or became effective in March 2010:

1.     Republic Act No. 10023 – An Act Authorizing the Issuance of Free Patents to Residential Lands.

This Act was passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate on December 18, 2009, and was approved by the President on March 9, 2010. The Act was published in two newspapers of general circulation on March 19, 2010.

Under the Act, a Filipino citizen, who is an actual occupant of a public residential land, may apply for a Free Patent Title, provided that (a) the land shall not exceed 200 square meters in highly urbanized cities, 500 square meters in other cities, 750 square meters in first class and second class municipalities, and 1,000 square meters in other municipalities, and (b) the land is not needed for public service or public use.

The application shall be filed with the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). The application shall be supported by (i) a map based on an actual survey conducted by a licensed geodetic engineer and approved by the DENR, (ii) a technical description of the land, and (iii) supporting affidavits of two disinterested persons residing in the same baranggay attesting to the truth of the facts stated in the application that the applicant has actually resided on, and continually possessed and occupied, the land under a bona fide claim of acquisition of ownership, by himself or through his predecessor-in-interest, for at least 10 years, and has complied with the requirements of an applicant.

The CENRO is mandated to process the application within 120 days, and shall give its recommendation to the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO). The PENRO shall have 5 days to approve or disapprove the recommendation. In case of conflicting claims, the parties may seek proper judicial remedies.

Public land actually occupied and used for public schools, municipal halls, public plazas or parks, and other governmental institutions for public use or purpose, may be issued special patents in the name of the national agency or local government unit concerned. However, these lands shall not be disposed of unless sanctioned by Congress if owned by a national agency, or by the sanggunian if owned by a local government unit.

The Director of Land Management Bureau of the DENR shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations for this Act.

2.     Republic Act No. 10026 – An Act Granting Income Tax Exemption to Local Water Districts by Amending Section 27 (C) of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997, as Amended, and Adding Section 289-A to the Code, For the Purpose.

This Act was passed by the House of Representatives on December 15, 2009 and the Senate on December 8, 2009. It lapsed into law on March 11, 2010 without the signature of the President, in accordance with Article VI, Section 27(1) of the Philippine Constitution. The law was published in two newspapers of general circulation on March 29, 2010.

This Act granted income tax exemption to local water districts, amending Section 27(c) of the National Internal Revenue Code for that purpose. Previously, under Section 27(c), only the Government Service and Insurance System, the Social Security System, the Philippine Health and Insurance Corporation, and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office were granted income tax exemptions.

The new Section 289-A mandates that the amounts that would have been paid as income tax by the local water districts shall be used for capital equipment expenditure in order to expand water services coverage and improve water quality.

All unpaid taxes of the local water districts, from August 13, 1996 to the effectivity date of the law, were declared condoned by the Government provided that (a) the Bureau of Internal Revenue establishes the local water districts’ financial incapacity, and (b) the local water district submits to Congress a program of internal reforms that would bring about its economic and financial viability.

The implementing rules and regulations shall be promulgated by the Secretary of Finance, upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

3. Republic Act No. 10028 – An Act Expanding the Promotion of Breastfeeding, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 7600, Otherwise Known as An Act Providing Incentives to All Government and Private Health Institutions with Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Practices and For Other Purposes.

This Act was passed by Senate and the House of Representatives on December 16, 2009, and was approved by the President on March 16, 2010.

The Act amended the Declaration of Policy of Republic Act No. 7600 (1992) by adding that the State shall protect working women by providing safe and healthful working conditions, taking into account their maternal functions, and such facilities and opportunities that will enhance their welfare and enable them to realize their full potential, in the service of the nation. The Act also declared that the State shall promote and encourage breastfeeding and provide specific measures that would present opportunities to mothers to continue expressing their milk and/or breastfeeding their infant or young child.

Chapter 1 on Breastfeeding and Rooming-In of Infants was made applicable to all private enterprises, government agencies (including their subdivisions and instrumentalities), and government owned or controlled corporations. Previously, the chapter was made applicable only to private and government health institutions adopting rooming-in and breastfeeding. The Secretary of Labor and Employment (for the private sector) and the Chairperson of the Civil Service Commission (for the public sector) may grant renewable 2-year exemptions, from the requirement to establish lactation stations, when it is not feasible or necessary due to the peculiar circumstances of the workplace or public place, including the number of women employees, the physical size of the establishment, or the average number of women who visit. Those who are exempted, but opted to comply, shall be entitled to the benefits granted, provided they give their employees the privilege of using them.

Health institutions are encouraged to set up milk banks for storage of breastmilk donated by mothers and which have undergone pasteurization. The stored breastmilk shall primarily be given to children in the neonatal intensive care unit with mothers who are seriously ill.

All health and non-health facilities, establishments or institutions (which includes public places and public and private work places) are mandated to establish lactation stations (where nursing mothers can wash up, breastfeed, express and store their breastmilk). Among the necessary equipment and facilities are lavatory for handwashing (unless there is an easily accessible lavatory nearby), refrigeration or cooling facility for storing expressed breastmilk, electrical outlets for breastpumps, small table, and comfortable seats. There shall be no direct or indirect promotion, marketing, or sale of infant formula or breastmilk substitutes within the lactation station.

Nursing employees shall be granted break intervals, not less than 40 minutes for every 8-hour work period, to breastfeed or express milk, which shall be counted as compensable hours worked.

The Department of Health (which shall be principally responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Act) is mandated (a) to develop and provide breastfeeding programs for working mothers, and (b) to produce and make available relevant information on programs on maternal nutrition and proper nourishment in preparation for successful and sustainable breastfeeding. Employers are also highly encouraged to develop breastfeeding and lactation support programs, mainly to assess the needs of lactating women in their company and provide them with adequate information regarding lactation management.

On the other hand, the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, shall integrate in the relevant subjects in the elementary, high school, and college levels, and in technical vocational education, the importance, benefits, methods or techniques of breastfeeding, and change of societal attitudes towards breastfeeding.

August of each year was declared to be “Breastfeeding Awareness Month” throughout the Philippines. To ensure meaningful observance of the breastfeeding month, a comprehensive national public education and awareness program on breastfeeding shall be undertaken, to be led by the Department of Health.

The Department of Health shall issue “working mother-baby friendly” certification to those which comply with the requirements of a proper lactation station. A private health and non-health facility, establishment or institution shall secure such certification and file the same with the Bureau of Internal Revenue before it can avail of tax incentives.

A private health and non-health facility, establishment or institution, which unjustifiably refuses or fails to provide the required lactation stations and lactation periods, may suffer a fine ranging from P50 thousand to P1 Million depending on the number of the offense, the number of women employees, the size of the establishment, and the average number of women who visit. A third offense may also result in the cancellation or revocation of business permit or license to operate. The Secretary of Health is empowered to impose sanctions on health institutions. Heads, officials and employees of government health and nonhealth facilities, establishments or institutions, who violate the Act, may be subject to administrative penalties ranging from reprimand to dismissal, depending on the number of the offense.

The Department of Health, in coordination with the Departments of Labor and Employment, Trade and Industry, Justice, Social Welfare and Development, Education, Interior and Local Government, and the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Higher Education, and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and professional and nongovernmental organizations concerned, shall issue the implementing rules and regulations within 120 days from the effectivity of the Act.

4. Republic Act No. 10029 – An Act to Regulate the Practice of Psychology Creating for This Purpose a Professional Regulatory Board of Psychology, Appropriating Funds Therefor and for Other Purposes.

The Act, to be known as the Philippine Psychology Act of 2009, was passed by the Senate on December 14, 2009 and by the House of Representatives on December 16, 2009, and was approved by the President on March 16, 2010.

The Statement of Policy declares that the State recognizes, among others, that psychologists have an important role in nation-building and development, and there is a need to protect the public by preventing inexperienced or untrained individuals from offering psychological services.

To this end, the Act created a 3-member Professional Regulatory Board of Psychology, under the administrative control and supervision of the Professional Regulatory Commission. The Chairperson and the two members shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines from the list of nominees submitted by the integrated and accredited national organization of psychologists. The members of the Board shall have a 3-year term, and may be re-appointed for another 3-year term. They have to, among others, hold a doctorate degree in psychology, have at least 10 years of practice in psychology and psychometrics and 5 years teaching experience in the field of psychology, and be a registered and licensed psychologist.

The Board shall conduct licensure examinations for those who want to be registered to practice psychology or psychometrics.

To qualify to take the licensure examinations for psychology, one is required among others (a) to be a Filipino citizen, or a permanent resident or citizen of a foreign state which extends reciprocity to the Philippines relative to the practice of the profession, (b) to hold at least a master degree in psychology, and (c) to have undergone a minimum of 200 hours of supervised practicum/internship/clinical experience.

Within 3 years from the creation of the Board, one may apply for registration as a psychologist without examination provided that (i) one has a doctoral degree in psychology and has 3 years work experience in the practice of psychology, (ii) one has a masteral degree in psychology and has 5 years work experience in the practice of psychology, or (iii) one has a bachelors degree in psychology, has 10 years work experience in the practice of psychology, is presently employed as a psychologist in a government or private agency, and has updated their professional education in various psychology-related functions.

Different qualifications are required for those who wish to take licensure examinations, or to apply for registration without examination, for psychometrics.

All successful examinees qualified for registration, and all qualified applicants for registration without examination, shall be required to take an oath to uphold the profession, prior to entering into the practice of psychology or psychometrics. A certificate of registration and professional identification card shall be issued upon compliance with all legal requirements. The certificate of registration shall be valid until suspended or revoked, while the professional identification card shall be valid for 3 years.

No certificate of registration and professional identification card shall be issued to a person who has been convicted of a criminal offense involving moral turpitude, or found guilty by any judicial or other duly constituted tribunal of immoral or dishonourable conduct, or medically diagnosed to be of unsound mind.

No foreigner shall be allowed to take the licensure examination unless he proves that the country of which he is a citizen admits Filipino citizens to the practice of psychology or psychometry (a) without need of a registration or the issuance of a professional identification card, or (b) without restriction, or (c) after an examination on terms of strict and absolute equality with nationals of said country.

One-year special temporary permits may be issued by the Board, subject to the approval of the Commission, to licensed foreign psychologists or psychometricians (i) who are internationally acknowledged specialists or outstanding experts whose services are important and necessary, or (ii) whose services are free and offered exclusively to indigent patients in a particular hospital, center or clinic, or (iii) who are employed as exchange professors in schools, colleges and universities.

The Board shall have the power, after notice and hearing, to suspend or revoke the certificate of registration and professional identification card, or cancel the special temporary permit, under specified circumstances. An application for reinstatement of the certificate of registration may be filed after two years from its date of revocation.

The decision of the Board may be appealed to the Commission within 15 days from receipt. The decision of the Commission may be appealed to the Court of Appeals within 15 days from receipt.

All communication or information disclosed or acquired in the course of giving psychological services are privileged. A psychologist or psychometrician, and his secretary, clerk or other staff, cannot be examined on these without the consent of the patient. Any evidence obtained in violation of this privilege shall be inadmissible.

The profession of psychologists and psychometricians shall be integrated by consolidating all practitioners into one recognized and accredited national organization. The Board shall adopt and promulgate a Code of Ethics and Code of Practice prescribed and issued by this accredited national organization.

The Act specifies prohibited acts in the practice of the profession. Any violation of any provision of the Act or its implementing rules and regulations shall be punished with imprisonment from 6 months to 3 years, or a fine from P10 thousand to P100 thousand, or both, at the discretion of the court. The Board shall promulgate the implementing rules and regulations, subject to the approval of the Commission, within 90 days after it is constituted.