House bill wants swimming as a subject in K-12 curriculum

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 17) — A House bill is pushing to include swimming as a mandatory subject in the K-12 Basic Education Curriculum.

House Bill 3495, also known as the "Drowning Prevention Act" seeks to mandate swimming classes in private and public schools in the elementary and secondary level as a means of preventing deaths from drowning.

The bill was filed by Iligan City Representative and House Committee on Youth & Sports Development Member Frederick Siao.

Its explanatory note cites drowning statistics from the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which reported drowning as the second leading cause of death among Filipino children below 15 years old, and the fourth highest cause of death from injury in the Philippines.

Under the House bill, the Department of Education, with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, will coordinate to make swimming lessons part of the Music Arts Physical Education and Health (MAPEH) core academic area. DepEd shall determine the length and in which grade they will take place.

The bill requires a trained instructor or certified lifeguard to conduct swimming lessons in a "safe and controlled environment." This will include water safety and safe rescue skills.

It also instructs the NDRRMC to develop a "drowning prevention plan" framework to serve as a guide for schools and other institutions working to reduce drowning incidents.

This plan will include drowning risk factors and preventive measures, and must be crafted within 180 days of the act's approval.

Aside from this, it mandates the NDRRMC to oversee the strict implementation of the Act, conduct information dissemination to prevent drowning, and assist local government units in crafting community action plans through their local disasters risk reduction and management offices.

The NDRRMC Is also required to submit an annual report of policies, activities, and programs related to the Act to the President of the Philippines and to Congress.

Under the bill, each LGU shall also formulate and design a community action plan based on the NDRRMC's drowning prevention plan.

This should include circumstances surrounding drowning incidents in the area, if any, training on first aid and basic life support, and drowning prevention seminars within the LGU.

A 2014 World Health Organization Global Report on Drowning: Preventing a Leading Killer says some 372 000 people die each year from drowning. More than 90 percent of these deaths take place in low or middle-income families like the Philippines.