The House Committee on Women and Gender Equality chaired by Bukidnon Rep. Ma. Lourdes Acosta-Alba approved in principle two legislative proposals on gender responsive protocols, responses and approaches during pandemic, public emergencies, as well as other disasters. Approved were House Bill 9059 authored by Acosta-Alba and HB 9465 by Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr. Both bills would ensure gender responsive and inclusive protocols and programming to address the gender-differentiated needs of women during COVID-19 and other health concerns, emergencies and disasters. The panel also approved the motion for the committee secretariat to come up with a draft substitute bill to the said measures during Wednesday’s online hearing. In her opening remarks, Acosta-Alba said the impacts of pandemics and other disasters are not gender-neutral. “Our recent or continuing experience with regard to our response to COVID-19 has demonstrated that women and girls are more disproportionately affected,” she explained. “As policymakers, we have to ensure that gender responsive approaches, as strongly recommended by both bills, are necessary to accomplish our commitment to leave no one behind, to build back better towards a better normal and heal as one, “she added. In her sponsorship speech, Acosta-Alba said HB 9059 emphasized the following points: 1) the impacts of COVID-19 are not gender-neutral; 2) existing gender roles put additional burden on women during pandemic or in any other disaster settings; 3) gender response and protocols can reduce long-term social consequences; and 4) women are agents of change for pandemic response and in strengthening resilience and recovery measures. “HB 9059 is a framework bill aiming to institutionalize intersectional gender analysis on the way we respond and develop programs during pandemic, public emergencies and other disasters. We do not create new laws but we seek to harmonize and strengthen existing ones on women and girls and incorporate these in our protocols and responses,” Acosta-Alba added. Meanwhile, TINGOG SINIRANGAN Party-list Rep. Yedda Romualdez, co-author of HB 9059, said the proposal is one important piece of legislation as it aims towards the advancement and inclusion of Filipino women, as well as the protection of their rights during public health emergencies. “The pandemic and other public health concerns and disasters in the future should not hinder gender equality and participation of women in leadership decision making and policy making,” she said.