MARK MERUEÑAS, GMANews.TV
MANILA, Philippines - A recent survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) showed that a majority of residents from the city of Manila supports having a law on reproductive health and thinks the Church is interfering with the government on reproductive health and family planning issues.
The poll, conducted from Dec. 27 to 29, 2008 among 600 respondents, showed that 62 percent or six out of 10 Manila residents think the religious sector involves itself in government efforts on family planning and reproductive health.
Despite this, 86 percent of the respondents still think there should be a national law on reproductive health, and 88 percent think the government should be required to teach family planning to the youth, according to the survey that was presented by the Forum for Family Planning and Development (The Forum) during its regular "Usapang PopDev" Forum in Quezon City.
The Forum president Benjamin de Leon told GMANews.TV the survey proves that the sentiments of people from Manila on reproductive health is in conflict with the city's Executive Order No. 003, an ordinance discouraging the use of artificial contraceptives.
"The government should listen and heed the call of the people on reproductive health services. The citizens of Manila have spoken," De Leon said.
Issued in February 2000 under the tenure of then city mayor and current Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, EO 003 upheld the promotion of natural family planning methods and allowed for the pull out of condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, among others from hospitals and health centers.
The SWS poll also showed that Manila residents do not think their local government is doing enough to ensure that its constituents are given proper access to reproductive health care and development.
According to the poll, 95 percent of the 600 respondents, aged 15 to 50, think the Manila government should improve their health services.
Ninety-three percent also said the Manila government needs more nurses, doctors, and midwives.
"This shows there is an understanding of the situation in the grassroots level... When you get results this high, above 90 percent, this is a unanimity," said SWS president Mahar Mangahas.
Rep. Edcel Lagman, main author of the Reproductive Health (RH) bill, said during the forum that the Manila City government should not blame to funding issues its shortcomings in making health care accessible to the public.
"I think that the city of Manila is not cash-strung to provide a few millions for the city's reproductive health development this year," Lagman said after citing data from the House's Internal Revenue Allotment Office that showed the city is eying to secure P1.6 billion budget for 2009, an increase from last year's P1.3 billion.
De Leon noted that the survey debunked claims from the Catholic Church - one of the RH Bill's biggest critics - that the proposed law on reproductive health would only promote abortion and promiscuity among the youth.
According to the survey, 59 percent (six out of 10) of the respondents do not think that adding lessons on family planning in the school curriculum could translate to sexually promiscuous individuals.
Most of the people surveyed (56 percent) also said they do not consider condoms, pills, and IUDs as forms of abortion. Instead, a majority of Manila residents - 64 percent - even thinks that a policy should be made requiring government to distribute these artificial forms of contraceptives
"We do hope that with this latest survey result, our respective legislators in the House of Representatives won't have any qualms on passing the Reproductive Health bill, which would benefit the majority of Filipinos especially couples," De Leon stressed.
The proposed law not only requires the inclusion of sex education among students from Grade 5 and up, but also directs the government to lead efforts in disseminating information on family planning and promoting natural and artificial forms of contraception.
Aside from these, the bill also tackles other reproductive health issues like abortion, maternal deaths, child nutrition, reproductive system-related infections, RH awareness among the youth through sex education, and even violence against women.
"The survey is echoing the voice of the true constituency of Congress," De Leon said. - GMANews.TV