UN weighs in on Philippine birth control debate

The United Nations warned that failure to pass a controversial birth control law in the Philippines could reverse gains in development goals amid stiff opposition from the powerful Catholic Church.

The bill seeks to make it mandatory for the government to provide free contraceptives in a country where more than 80 percent of the population is Catholic and which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in Southeast Asia.

Ugochi Daniels, country representative from the UN Population Fund, said on Sunday she remained "cautiously optimistic" that President Benigno Aquino's allies who dominate the House of Representatives could muster the numbers to pass the bill on Tuesday after 14 years of often divisive debate.

"What is important now is to highlight the urgency of the bill," Daniels said.

The UN, in a separate statement, said the Philippines was unlikely to achieve its millennium development goal of reducing maternal deaths by three quarters and providing universal access to reproductive health by 2015.

The body said it had "extensively studied" the proposed law which once passed could "vastly improve health and quality of life" in a country where a third of the population live on less than a dollar a day.

A rise in unwanted pregnancies could swell the number of people in poverty, and lead to an explosion in urban slum populations, the UN said.

And while the country has been enjoying economic expansion of more than five percent in recent years, the gains could be reversed, it warned.

"Hopes of future prosperity could turn to dust if the country is not able to deal with the population growth," the UN said.

Daniels said maternal deaths would continue to rise with more and more women getting pregnant at a young age without the proper health care and access to key reproductive information.

Between 2006 and 2010, the maternal mortality rate rose 36 percent to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births, from 162 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2000 to 2005, according to the government's 2011 Family Health Survey.

And many of those giving birth were girls between 15 and 19 years old, the UN said.

"I think we've gone from 11 (maternal deaths) a day to between 14 and 15 a day now. And unfortunately, most of these are poor women," Daniels said.

The UN Population Fund was "very concerned" about the rising number of deaths, she said, noting that even in war-torn Afghanistan the trend was downwards.

She urged Philippine lawmakers to quickly pass the bill and "stop failing our young".

"This is now the time. We have been waiting for a very long time," Daniels said.

The UN's call came as Catholic priests and nuns led thousands in a protest rally in Manila Saturday to urge lawmakers to scrap the bill.

Besides free contraception, it would also give the poor preferential access to family planning services in state hospitals, while lessons on family planning and sex education would become compulsory in schools and for couples applying for a marriage licence.

The UN has said a lack of education and access to condoms has led to an explosion of HIV infections in the Philippines, which it said is now one of seven countries in the world where cases have risen by 25 percent or more since 2001.

Aquino has signalled his backing for the bill ahead of Tuesday's vote in the House of Representatives.

The Senate, the upper house of parliament, also needs to pass the bill before it can become law, but some of its leaders were seen giving their support to the church rally Saturday.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes
    ‘Taklub’ wins jury prize in Cannes

    The Yolanda-inspired film “Taklub” has won a special award at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The advocacy film, which had a successful premiere last Tuesday under the festival’s Un Certain Regard section, is directed by 2009 Cannes best director Brillante Mendoza and top-billed by Nora Aunor. The award cited the film’s sensitive portrayal of individuals and communities in the Philippines fighting to continue living despite natural disasters exposing them to suffering and death. …

  • Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam
    Orphan tops chemical engineering board exam

    A 21-year-old orphan from Capiz topped the chemical engineering board examinations held this month. Remington Salaya, a cum laude graduate of the Central Philippine University in Iloilo, ranked first in the board examinations with a score of 83.30 percent. Out of 405 chemical engineering graduates who took the exam in mid-May, 239 passed. …

  • A sunset party for APEC delegates
    A sunset party for APEC delegates

    Greeted by the beat of Ati-atihan drummers, delegates of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation trade ministers meeting enjoyed a welcome dinner and cultural presentation at sunset yesterday. Dubbed FuntaSea, Shangri-La Boracay Resort and Spa’s Banyugan Beach was transformed into a fantasy island, complete with mermaids, fire dancers, and choreographed paraws (sailboat) representing the best of Boracay. With APEC meetings being held all over the Philippines, each presentation is conceptualized …

  • UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute
    UN chief urges peaceful solution of sea dispute

    United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called Friday for a peaceful solution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea, where China’s increased assertiveness has alarmed its smaller neighbors. In Manila, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. appealed to China to respect various international agreements on freedom of navigation and aviation. Coloma’s call came in the wake of an incident Wednesday where Chinese naval forces warned a US …

  • Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center
    Phl seeks transparency, inclusivity in Asean-China Center

    Philippine Ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Elizabeth Buensuceso has called on participants of the ASEAN-China Center (ACC) brainstorming session to vigorously work on promoting ASEAN-China relations under the principles of inclusivity, transparency and centrality. The brainstorming session, attended by the ACC’s joint council and joint executive board members, also involved a midterm review of ACC’s work since its establishment in 2011. The ACC aims to promote …

  • Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation
    Lebanon tightens rules on HSW repatriation

    Distressed Filipino domestic helpers in Lebanon may find it more difficult to return home. The government of Lebanon has tightened the rules on repatriation of distressed household service workers (HSWs), Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz reported yesterday. Citing a report from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Baldoz said the Lebanese government opted to re-impose a previous policy requiring investigation into every case of HSWs who ran away from their employers and sought …

  • Army execs face attrition over promotion quota
    Army execs face attrition over promotion quota

    Dozens of Philippine Army officials may be removed from the service due to a promotion quota system in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, according to AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang. In a letter to Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, he requested that the 30 percent promotion quota – which means that only 30 percent of those eligible for promotion in a given year will actually be promoted – in the Army be raised to 50 percent. Under the military’s attrition law, middle-grade officers …

  • Philippines backs support for small enterprises at APEC meet

    MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The Philippines' top trade official on Saturday called for support for the integration of micro, small and medium enterprises in global trade, which he said would help reduce poverty and inequality in the Asia-Pacific region. …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options