• Lawmaker says RH Law ‘not enough’

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    The Reproductive Health (RH) Law “is not enough” and must be complemented with measures that improve education and create jobs.

    Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela on Sunday urged the government to implement a comprehensive set of measures alongside the RH Law for the country to maximize the benefits of its “demographic sweet spot.”

    “It’s no use if you have a number of working age people larger than the young and the old if they do not have jobs in the first place,” Gatchalian said in a statement.

    Citing data released last month by the Philippine Statistics Authority, the lawmaker said that of the 2.7 million unemployed, 49.1 percent are aged 15 to 24 years old.

    Enforcing a set of enabling policies on good governance, labor, education and trade which will complement the RH Law will improve the country’s chances for higher economic growth, said Gatchalian, who is a senior vice chair of the House Committee on Metro Manila Development and a member of the House panel on Trade and Industry.

    “The RH Law has to be complemented with measures that will improve the country’s competitiveness in attracting investments. There should also be enabling policies that will upgrade our current education system and induce the creation of quality and sufficient jobs,” he added.

    Gatchalian cited a 2011 research paper titled “Demographic Change and Economic Growth in South Asia” by Harvard professors which stressed that economic benefits do not appear automatically with demographic transition.

    “Rather, enjoyment of the [demographic]dividend is crucially determined by the policy environment. For example, good governance, carefully constructed trade policy, and sound macroeconomic management enhance the prospects of capturing the economic benefits of a favorable age structure,” he quoted the study.

    “By contrast, undue tampering with competitive forces in labor and capital markets and the failure to provide public goods diminish a country’s prospects of benefiting from demographic change,” it added.

    Gatchalian noted that the anti-trust measure has yet to be passed by the House of Representatives on second reading, citing a legislative tracker as of last December 18, while its counterpart measure has been approved by the Senate.

    He also pointed out that the measure rationalizing fiscal incentives is still pending at the committee level in both houses of Congress, and that amendments on the Constitution’s economic provisions have advanced to the House plenary while the Senate has yet to tackle it at the committee level. He added that changes in the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) are still being discussed by the House energy panel.

    Lastly, the Freedom of Information bill, he noted, has also been passed by the Senate on third reading but has yet to hurdle the House public information committee.

    Last December, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. stressed the need to pass Resolution of Both Houses (RBH) 1, which seeks to lift the 40-percent restriction on foreign ownership of public utilities such as power, mass media, water, telecommunications and land.

    Belmonte also enumerated and pushed for priority legislation agreed upon with the House of Representatives’ Senate counterparts during their regular monthly dialogue.

    Among these were Anti-trust and competition law and amendments to the following – the Foreign Investment Act, Retail Trade Act, Build Operate Transfer Law, EPIRA as well to the Cabotage Law, that would allow foreign vessels to pick up, transport, and deliver shipments to and from local ports.

    Meanwhile, the Department of Health has earmarked some P1.7 billion for the full implementation of the RH Law this year in a bid to reduce the country’s fertility rate to 2 children per mother or 2.1 percent from the current 3.0 percent, the lawmaker said citing news reports.

    The country’s population is expected to reach 101.4 million by mid-2015.

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