A CALL to PGMA to Address the People’s Wellbeing and Heed Their Plea on Reproductive Health and Family Planning.
We are appalled with the way President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo attributed the decrease in the country’s population of natural family planning in her 8th State of the Nation Address (SONA)
We are dismayed with her statement that equated informed choice to “letting more couples, who are mostly Catholics, know about natural family planning.”
These statements of hers are baseless, and show her denial of real situation in an effort to please the catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). And not only is this suspicion being shared by reproductive health advocates, because, in an ironic turn of event, even Pangasinan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, a member of the very group that President Arroyo is trying to please, has stated that she could be “just trying to earn political points from the CBCP” when she uttered her stand on the population issue.
Natural family planning does not contribute to significant decline in the Philippine’s population growth .The UP Population Institute (UPPI) attributes the decline in the country’s population growth rate, however slow, to the increase in contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) that includes modern contraceptives such as pills and female sterilization.
Both the 2003 National Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) and the 2005 Family Planning Survey (FPS) show the Filipinos’ preference for modern methods, topped by the pill (17 percent) and female sterilization (9percent). Users of modern natural family planning methods such as mucus/ billing /ovulation and lactational amenorrhea (LAM) methods comprise less than one percent.
It is thus erroneous for the President to attribute the drop in the population growth rate to her administration’s family planning (NFP)-only policy, Dr, Ernesto Pernia of the UP School of Economics and former lead Economist of the Asian Development Bank says that it would take at least five years down the line for the effect of any population policy to be seen, felt or perceived. He also said that had President Arroyo taken an aggressive population management policy when she first assumed her position in 2001, the Philippines would be feeling its effects now and we could have been “cushion” from the blow of the global economic crisis.
Result of the 2003 NDHS also show the country‘s alarmingly high unmet need and gap between desired and actual fertility rate. Despite the increase in the use of contraceptives, the Philippines’ unmet need remains high at 17 percent, a measly 3 percent decline from 20 percent in 1998. One in four pregnancies remains mistimed while one in five is not wanted at all. On averaged, Filipino women have one child more than they would have wanted. If these unwanted births could be prevented, the survey shows, the Philippines’ total fertility rate would be 2.5 births per woman as opposed to the current 3.5 births.
In actual numbers, the measly decline in the country’s population growth rate from 2.36 percent to 2.04 percent still translates to three babies born per minutes, 206 per hour and 4,947 per day, many of them born poor families.
Informed choice means access to the whole range of family planning information and services ---- both natural and modern artificial methods. By promoting a natural family planning – only (NP-only) policy, the government is violating the principle of voluntary choice as founded on the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It also isolates majority of women who prefer modern and artificial methods and reverses the country’s gains in lowering fertility and slowing population growth to propel national development. Promoting an NP-only policy also goes against our commitment to the Millennium Development Goals (MGS), prevalence rate--- covering both modern natural and artificial methods--- to 60 percent by 2010 and 80 percent by 2015.
Numerous international and local studies have proven the natural family planning is not for everyone. Various national surveys of the National Statistics Office (NSO) have also shown the people’s preference for modern family planning methods with pills consistently topping the method of choice.
The need to establish a right-based and comprehensive national population management and reproductive health policy remains. If indeed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “cares too much about this nation to let anyone stand in the way of our people’s wellbeing,” she should uphold the Filipinos’ Constitutional right to informed choice, prevent undue influence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and conservative groups on the Presidency and on public policymaking, and fulfill her sworn duty to serve and protect the people’s real needs and interest.