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Lawmakers, NGOs commend P-Noy on his pro-RH stand

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awmakers and various non-government organizations (NGOs) on Friday commended President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on his firm stand on reproductive health (RH).

Iloilo Rep. Janette Garin, one of the most ardent RH bill authors in the House of Representatives, said that the 15th Congress is the right time to pass the proposed measure which has been pending since the 10th Congress.

"We have a President who said that his administration will provide a range of options and information to couples in matters related to their reproductive health and a House Speaker who earlier said that reproductive health bill will be tackled and voted upon this Congress," she said.

"I am positive that the reproductive health bill will be enacted during this Congress. It is no less than the President who said that the couple will be in the best position to determine what is best for the family, how to space the births, and what methods they can rely on," she added.

As such, Garin said "it is now our duty as lawmakers to ensure that laws, policies and programs that will provide couples access to reproductive health education and services are available."

The Iloilo solon filed House Bill No. 101, which will enable individuals and couples to have the number of children they desire with due consideration to health particularly of women, and resources available to them; equitable allocation and utilization of resources; effective partnership among the national government, local government units and private sector in people-centered programs towards quality of life and environmental protection; and conduct studies to demographic trends towards sustainable human development.

HB 101 is one of the five reproductive health bills pending for public hearing and committee approval in the House of Representatives.

For its part, the Philippine Legislators' Committee on Population and Development Foundation Inc. (PLCPD), lauded President Aquino's statement of support for family and RH services.

The group urged the President towards concrete action starting off with the prioritization of the pending RH bills.

"Now that the President has reiterated his campaign promise to provide assistance to couples who want to use family planning method, I do not see any reason why can’t we see passage of the reproductive health bill this 15th Congress, under his administration," said PLCPD executive director Ramon San Pascual.

"We now plead for the President to certify the reproductive health bills as an urgent measure and give marching order to members of Congress to hasten its eventual passage," he said.

Ben De Leon, president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development (FFPD), a long-time reproductive health advocate, also commended President Aquino on his RH stance.

"Finally, a Filipino President known to be close with the Catholic hierarchy, has expressed clear and strong support on one of the most controversial issues in the country. The President simply articulated the desire of Filipino people to be given access to reproductive health education and services as shown by various surveys," he said.

"By his recent statement, President Noynoy would just be able to save thousands of lives of Filipino mothers who die needlessly due to birth and birth complications owing to lack of maternal health services, including family planning. Our Parliament must now take this as clear and strong signal to debate and vote for reproductive health bill," he added.

Meanwhile, amid heated debate on the controversial RH bill, advocates appeal to Catholic bishops "to stop harassing the President and lawmakers on their support on family planning and the reproductive health bill."

San Pascual said "the harassment and false accusations of the bishops can only go so much, they must know that such blackmailing strategy can also work against them."

"Catholic bishops must stop threatening the President and allow him to do his duty of providing for the reproductive health needs of the Filipino people," he said.

San Pascual instead urged the bishops "to let the legislators freely and intelligently debate on the merits of the proposed reproductive health bill."
"Instead of threatening the President and other lawmakers, the bishops should be decent and ventilate their position on the reproductive health bill in the proper venue," he said, adding that the Catholic bishops should participate in public hearings to present their position.

But for Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles, he said there is no need to legislate the government's policy on population management because even without it, Filipinos have always been free to choose how to manage their families, including the choice on the number of their children and the choice of the family planning method that they want to use.

"Why do we have to legislate population management when in fact even without it, our people have always been free to do what they think is best for their family. I think it's best that we just leave it that way and let our people choose what they want. It's not illegal to use condom so why waste time and people's money just to make a law that encourages the use of condom? It doesn't make sense," he said.

Nograles said that instead of wasting time and money to enrich condom manufacturers and other multinationals making contraceptives, Congress should focus its effort on measures that supports entrepreneurship and provide livelihood for the poor and expand government support for education and vocational training programs.

He said the country's real problem is not the number but the quality of our population.

"On the contrary, our human resource is our most important resource. We just have to provide the means and the opportunity for our population to become more productive," he said.

The Davao City solon noted that while advocates of the RH measure maybe correct in their claim that the population management can help in solving some of the country's social ills, "it may also open the floodgate for an irreversible moral decadence among Filipinos particularly the youth."
He said that the reproductive health is an issue that unnecessarily divides not only Congress but the entire nation as well.

"Everything that is in the reproductive health proposal is being practiced by many Filipinos even without any RH law. This debate over the RH bill is a needless distraction on our focus to bring unity and progress for our people and for our nation," he said. (PNA)




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