October 10, 2016
The struggle for the full and unrestrained implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law of 2012 (RA 10354) has reached a crucial level today as the Department of Health contests the recent Supreme Court decision of August 24, 2016 by filing a motion for reconsideration before the highest court. The SC decision, if uncontested, could put to a halt the most effective methods of the Family Planning program which is being implemented by the DOH and the Commission on Population (POPCOM) through local government units and civil society nationwide and lead to increased mortality and morbidity among women and infants.
“If carried out, the SC decision could result in over 900 additional maternal deaths every year arising from almost 1 million unintended pregnancies that could have been addressed by the full implementation of the Family Planning Program,” POPCOM Executive Director Juan Antonio Perez III asserted. “This would mean a 30% rise in maternal deaths in the country,” Dr Perez said.
Although the RH Law was passed in 2012 and its IRR approved in March 2013, there have been restraints through TROs on its implementation for 28 months in the last 3 and a half years.
President Rodrigo Duterte called for the full implementation of the law in his SONA as late as last July. The DOH’s National Implementation Team (NIT) for the RH Law headed by former Secretary Esperanza Cabral had recommended an Executive Order that would accelerate the implementation of the law through community-based, house to house campaigns to reach out to the 4 million women and men who wanted to avail of the program.
“Those who opposed the law in the legislative arena are now trying to reverse the judgment of history through backdoor judicial dilatory tactics, but the millions of Filipinos who stand to benefit from the law will surely bring all of this to an end. The inevitable deaths of hundreds of women and unborn infants will surely haunt those who want to undo an essential public health program,” Dr. Perez stated.
The Commission on Population has headed the Secretariat of the RH Law National Implementation Team (NIT) since January, 2015. In its annual reports, the NIT has noted the steady progress of the law’s implementation as the number of women and men using modern family planning methods have increased from 38% in 2013 to 43% in 2015. However, the TRO on the popular progesterone subdermal implant (PSI) since June 2015 has hampered the further expansion of the family planning program.
The Supreme Court has also stopped the re-registration of current contraceptive methods approved by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) since June, 2015. This has led to the withdrawal from the market (and family planning program) of 14 out of 48 registered contraceptives in the country. New contraceptives are also effectively barred by the SC TRO.
“By the end of 2017, more than half of the contraceptives will lose their registration and Filipino consumers will be faced with more expensive products while the government will also be limited in the choice of methods to procure. This is certainly a far cry from the expectations of the people in 2012 when the law was approved by the people’s legislators,” Dr. Perez stressed.
The Commission on Population called on the Supreme Court to reverse its decision and lift the TRO and allow the unrestrained implementation of RA 10354.
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World Population Day is celebrated every July 11 of each year. It is a global observance authorized by the United Nations since 1989. The celebration aims to increase people’s awareness on various population-related issues such as family planning, adolescent health, gender equality, education, environment, employment, and poverty.
For 2016, the theme is “Investing in Teenage Girls”. It highlights the importance of prioritizing programs that promote young girls’ education, health, and employment for national development. Teenage girls around the world face greater challenges than their male counterparts. In developing countries, almost 20 million girls between ages 15 to 19 give birth each day, and ten percent of girls who had sex before age 15 said it was coerced. Suicide and complications of pregnancy and childbirth are the leading causes of death among girls between the ages of 15 and 19. “Every teenage girl has the right to a safe and successful transition into adulthood and the right to embrace the opportunities that the future holds for them”. (UNFPA)
It has been a practice of the entire Commission to hold a month-long celebration of the WPD. As a kickoff activity, POPCOM Region-5 will hold a motorcade on July 11, 2016 at 6:30AM around Legazpi City and Daraga. A short program will follow at 8:00 to 9:30 AM at the Activity Center of Embarcadero de Legazpi. Partner agencies, youth groups, population program officers, and the media will be invited to the event.
A summit on teenage pregnancy will also be conducted on July 18 in partnership with Legazpi City Health Office. One hundred (100) teen mothers from the different barangays of Legazpi will be invited to the event. Resource persons from the Department of Health and Legazpi City Health Office will discuss about teen pregnancy, access to health services, and the importance of facility-based delivery. The National Nutrition Council, TESDA, Legazpi City Population and Nutrition Office, Department of Education Education-ALS, and the Philippine National Police, will be requested to set-up booths where the young mothers can receive information about child rearing, nutrition, livelihood skills, alternative learning, and the laws on violence against women.
Also, part of the month-long celebration is the conduct of a youth camp and film making workshop on July 6-7, 2016 at La Edley Resort where seventy two (72) Grades 9, 10, and 11 students and their coaches from the thirteen (13) divisions attended.
Local Government Units, Academe, Media, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), National Government Agencies (NGAs), and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) are encouraged to support the celebration by hanging streamers, conducting activities relative to the theme, or highlighting the message of investing in adolescent girls in their agency’s activities.
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Maternal mortality has been one of the biggest challenges in the struggle to ensure quality health care for all. No woman should die giving life yet many die not because they could not be saved, but because they did not get the optimum care they needed.
To continue the critical task of reducing maternal mortality, the Commission on Population launches the Sixth State of the Philippine Population Report (SPPR6) with emphasis on the precious and precarious lives of Filipino mothers.
In 2015, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) over Implanon and Implanon NXT, a form of subdermal contraceptive which can last for three years. Several prohibitions on the use of modern contraceptives were also seen in some provinces in country, with health service providers living in fear even when the RPRH Law is already the rule. Just when the implementing mechanism for service delivery and demand generation strategies have taken a significant stride, we are now faced with a significant budget cut for the procurement of commodities – an outright denial of women’s reproductive rights by leaving women with no options and means for family planning at all. These placed a detrimental effect on the poorest women who rely heavily on health centers for contraceptives and contributed to the risk of maternal mortality in the country. A woman who is already undernourished may be pregnant for the fifth or sixth time. The baby and the mother are equally at risk of getting complications or worse, dying. There are women who were already advised by doctors that additional pregnancies would surely be precarious to their health but still can not avail family planning services. The consequences of the denial of government-funded RH and Family Planning services in 2016 will be at least an additional 110 maternal deaths that will accompany at least 50,000 unintended pregnancies.
The launch of SPPR 6 to be held in Manila on March 7, 2016 aims to stimulate a more comprehensive discussion and incite necessary and sustainable actions on the issue of maternal mortality. In 2013, World Health Organization reported a maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 120 per 100,000 live births in the country. These deaths are mainly caused by severe medical conditions which could have been prevented with proper access to health care services. SPPR 6 revealed that this lack of access is highest among women aged 15-19, those with 5 or more children, living in rural areas, those with no education, and those in the poorest economic group. This reflects the world’s inequalities in access to health care services and stresses the huge gap between rich and poor.
SPPR 6 accounted delayed care as one of the causes of maternal mortality which included the delay in deciding to seek health care, delay in reaching the health facility and delay in receiving the needed care.
POPCOM Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio A. Perez III believes that these delays and the continuous impediment in the implementation of the Law is a disrespect and injustice to the Filipino people. “With this kind of injustice, another year will be lost in our progress to achieving population stability and the long-awaited demographic dividend,” Dr. Perez reiterated.
Dr. Perez stressed that this year, there shouldn’t be delays anymore. “The Commission on Population will optimize its very limited resources to enhance demand for reproductive health services. We will continue our advocacy to LGUs to mobilize them in creating an enabling environment for women, men, and adolescents particularly through provision of services and information especially to the grassroots. In all of this, we will continue to pursue partnerships and collaboration with government agencies, and CSOs including NGOs and the private sector in ensuring reproductive health and rights which remain a critical goal of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he concluded.
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Family Planning Month is observed annually in August with the aim to increase public’s awareness and access to family planning (FP) services. The Commission on Population Regional Population Office V (RPO-V) joins the nationwide celebration with the theme: “Ang Pamilyang Pilipino: Kapag Planado, Panalo!” The theme highlights the importance of family planning in improving lives by helping couples achieve desired family size.
The Philippine now ranks 12th most populated country in the world after its population reached 100 Million on July 27, 2014. The ballooning figure is not surprising with the country’s unmet need for family planning higher at 19.3% in 2011 compared to 15.4% in 2006. (FHS 2011, 2006) Unmet need is the proportion of women who wants to delay or stop childbirth but are not using any method of contraception.
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