Eight out of 10 voters believe that candidates should include family planning in their programs, a recent Pulse Asia survey showed.

The poll conducted from February 15 to 20 among 1,800 registered voters across the country revealed high public preference for family planning.

Pulse Asia said 95 percent of the respondents said it is important for Filipinos to plan their families, an increase of five percent from result of a similar survey in 2010.

The survey also found out that nine out of 10 or 86 percent of the respondents also want the government to allocate funds for family planning services.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), which sponsored the questions in the Pulse Asia survey, said the results are an added pressure on the next government to fully implement the Reproductive Health (RH) Law and allocate sufficient funding for its implementation, including family planning services.

“The people have spoken. Candidates should prioritize family planning and ensure the full implementation of the RH Law,” PLCPD executive director Romeo Dongeto said.

“Despite the clear mandate of the law, some officials at the national and local levels hamper the free provision of family planning services. The RH Law critics outside the government also continue to challenge its implementation, recently scoring a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court halting government procurement and distribution of birth control implants,” he added.

Funding for family planning services this year was slashed by P1 billion.

Health Secretary Janet Garin said the Department of Health (DOH) had allocated P1 billion for the free provision of condoms, IUDs and birth control pills.

The PLCPD noted that some local officials like Mayor Sally Lee of Sorsogon City (Sorsogon) moved to ban the use of modern family planning in their localities.

RH advocates fear that these moves will reverse gains in promoting responsible parenthood and improving maternal health.

The Philippines has failed to achieve its Millennium Development Goal to reduce maternal deaths.

Based on the 2013 National Demographic and Health Survey, there are 221 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, far from the target of 52 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births by 2015.

“Filipinos, especially the poor, need information and services to plan their families and improve their reproductive health,” Dongeto also told reporters.

He said young people should have access to family planning services, given the rising incidence of teenage pregnancy in the country.

According to the United Nations, the Philippines has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Asia.

The PLCPD said that based on the 2013 Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study, one in every 10 or 14 percent of Filipino girls aged 15 to 19 were either pregnant for the first time or are already mothers.

“The 2016 elections are an opportune time to choose the next set of leaders, from the national down to the local level, who will ensure the meaningful implementation of the RH Law, including the funding for family planning, one of its important elements,” Dongeto said.