LEGAZPI CITY — President Benigno Aquino III should complement his advocacy on voluntary family planning, birth spacing and contraceptive use by likewise endorsing the immediate passage of the reproductive health bill whose central idea is freedom of informed choice.
House Minority Leader and Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel C. Lagman has stated that this endorsement would fittingly cap the Aquino administration’s first 100 days and mitigate early setbacks.
Lagman said, “House Bill No. 96, the first of several reproductive health bills re-filed in the 15th Congress, and I principally authored, guarantees the right to make free and informed decisions and promotes without bias all modern natural and artificial methods of family planning that are medically safe, legal and effective.”
He furthered that the bill underscores in its Explanatory Note that “neither the State nor the Church has the authority to compel the people or the faithful what family planning method to adopt. The choice belongs to parents and couples, particularly to women who have an inherent right over their own bodies.”
The Philippines is the only middle-income Asian country without a comprehensive reproductive health law.
Lagman stressed that the need to institutionalize by legislation a progressive reproductive health policy is imperative to counteract the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of changing administrations and leaders.
In 2008, Millennium Development Goal No. 5 on improvement of maternal health and reduction of maternal mortality was amended to include the achievement of “universal access to reproductive health” by 2015.
The Philippines is one of 189 signatory countries to the Millennium Declaration 10 years ago this month.
Reproductive health and family planning are interlinked with all of the eight MDGs from the eradication of extreme hunger and poverty, combating HIV-AIDS and reducing child mortality to achieving universal primary education and ensuring environmental sustainability.
Lagman noted that when the first comprehensive version of the RH bill was filed in the 11th Congress 10 years ago, the Philippine population was about 75 million. A decade later or on 01 July 2010 when House Bill No. 96 was filed, the country’s population has ballooned to 93.4 million or a staggering increase of 19.3 million or an average increase of almost two million annually.
He also cited that while the Philippines is the 12th most populous country in the world, its human development index ranking has slipped to 105th among 182 countries in the latest Human Development Report released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 2009.
The solon stressed that a high population growth rate of 2.04% impacts adversely on all indicators of human development like health, education, food security, employment, mass housing and the environment.