PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has issued an executive order (EO) to “accelerate” the implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RP/RH) law to ensure “zero unmet need” for contraception and reduce poverty, a senior Cabinet official announced on Wednesday.
EO 12, signed by the President on January 9, allows the government to find couples and individuals who want “modern family planning,” put up local structures that will generate demand and referrals, and integrate RP/RH strategies into social protection and family planning programs.
Speaking to reporters in Malacañang, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said EO 12 mandates universal access to modern family planning tools.
“Meaning that all women of reproductive ages should be able to achieve their desired family size, their desired number of children, rather than having more children than they want or they can afford and provide for adequately, and that is exactly the essence of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Law,” said Pernia, who is also the director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).
The government wants to bring down the poverty rate to 14 percent of the population by the end of the Duterte administration from 21.6 percent in 2015, Pernia said.
“The EO is really for modern family planning services, modern contraceptives to be adopted by women of reproductive age, in order for them to achieve their desired number of children,” he said.
“If we don’t implement the RP/RH law fully, then we are going to be unable to meet our poverty reduction target,” he added.
Pernia also cited maternal death statistics, which he placed at 231 deaths per 100,000 live births.
“So the RP/RH Law is not just to enable families to achieve their desired number of children but also to prevent or to lower maternal mortality rates as well as teenage pregnancies,” Pernia said.
“Teenage pregnancies have been rising. In other countries, teenage pregnancies are diminishing but in the Philippines, it’s rising. So there are many objectives that can be achieved by implementing the RP/RH Law having to do with life: life of the mother, health of the mother, the health of teenagers as well as you know, births that are wanted,” he said.
The RP/RH Law, or Republic Act 10354, aims to guarantee universal access to methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education and maternal care.
The Supreme Court delayed the implementation of the law in March 2013 following opposition from pro-life groups. It ruled in April 2014 that the law was “not unconstitutional.”
In June 2015, the court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the Department of Health and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from “granting any and all pending applications for registration and/or recertification for reproductive products and supplies including contraceptive drugs and devices,” as well as “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting the hormonal contraceptive ‘Implanon’ and ‘Implanon NXT.’”
The group Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines, Inc. had questioned the process of certifying contraceptives, claiming there was no due process.
Pernia said the government expected the court to lift the temporary restraining order.
“Important provisions of the RP/RH law have been stymied by the issuance of a TRO by the Supreme Court and the TRO was issued on the petition of so-called pro-life groups… They keep saying that contraception or family planning or the reproductive health law is abortifacient, it’s anti-life. But, of course, we in the government, we think differently, just the opposite. We feel that it is pro-life, pro-women, pro-children, and pro-economic development,” he said.
“But with this EO from the President, we hope that the Supreme Court will act expeditiously in terms of lifting the TRO,” the NEDA chief added.
The EO, which was put into immediate effect, tasked the Department of Health, Commission on Population, Department of the Interior and Local Government and other relevant government agencies to collaborate with all local government units for the implementation of the RP/RH Law.
It also directed the Department of Education to implement a “gender-sensitive” and “rights-based” comprehensive sexuality education in the school curriculum.