House approves bill introducing SK reforms (Philippines News Agency)

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a measure instituting reforms in the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) to make it more responsive to the needs of the youth sector.

Rep. Pedro B. Acharon Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato), chairman of the House Committee on Local Government, said House Bill 6043 seeks to amend certain sections of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as Local Government Code of 1991.

Acharon said the bill aims to strengthen SK by reorienting youth participation in governance towards meaningful volunteerism and by shielding them from partisan politics.

Rep. Raul V. Del Mar (1st District, Cebu City), one of the authors of the bill, said the measure increases the age requirement of SK members from 15 to 18 to 21 years old.

The SK is a necessary mechanism to uphold the interest and welfare of the youth sector through a democratically established institution of governance, Del Mar said.

Rep. Alfredo D. Vargas III (5th District, Quezon City), another author of the measure, said the progressive reform in the current youth representation would ensure that the spirit of volunteerism will be strengthened and the youth will be insulated from the perils of traditional politics.

The measure, to be known as the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act, requires elective or appointed officials of the SK to be at least 18 years of age but not more than 21 on the day of the polls. It also allows the SK officials who reach the age of 21 to finish their terms.

Moreover, the bill provides that the Sangguniang Barangay shall appropriate the SK fund in lump sum to be disbursed solely for youth development and empowerment purposes.

Further, it provides that the 10-percent SK share in barangay funds shall be released provided that the request for such release is supported by an SK resolution and a project proposal duly approved by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Other key features of the bill include provisions on the grounds for suspension and removal of SK officials from public office, changing the period of the meetings of the Katipunan ng Kabataan from at least once every three months to once every six months, and prohibiting the election or appointment of SK officials who have a relative in elected public office within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity.

Also, the measure institutionalizes the observance of the Buwan ng Kabataan during which local officials shall conduct activities aimed at empowering youth participation.

It mandates the conduct of leadership trainings and seminars for SK members which will be managed jointly by the Local Government Academy of the Philippines (LGAP) and the DILG and establishes an SK Capability Building Fund to support the mandatory trainings and seminars on leadership and program development. (PNA)