Philippines Not Equipped To Handle Phase-Out Of Contraceptive Program
Some family planning advocates Tuesday said the Philippine government is not equipped to handle the phase-out of a USAID-funded program that provides contraceptives to women in the country, the AP/International Herald Tribune reports (AP/International Herald Tribune,8/14). USAID has been the largest supplier of contraceptives in thePhilippines for the past three decades, but the agency has scaled downits supplies and plans to terminate its contraceptive program by theend of 2008. According to USAID, the phase-out is in line with thePhilippines' goal of achieving self-reliance in family planning.
Governmentofficials in the predominately Roman Catholic country have beenreluctant to approve funding for contraceptives and birth controlinformation to be taught in schools because of the potential reactionof Catholic bishops. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who isCatholic, since taking office in 2001 has consistently promoted naturalfamily planning methods over contraceptives. Government booklets onresponsible parenting do not mention birth control pills, condoms orintrauterine devices (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/12).
AUnited Nations study found that the country will need about $2 millionannually from 2007 to 2010 to provide contraceptives at no or low costto low-income women. The Philippine Congress has allocated 180 millionpesos, or $3.9 million, for family planning programs this year, butguidelines for the funds' distribution to local governments have notbeen approved yet, some groups said.
Benjamin de Leon, president of Forum for Family Planning and Development,said funds are needed to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates.Alberto Romualdez, vice president of the family planning forum andformer health secretary of the country, said it is unlikely the budgetfor family planning would be available soon. "The problem is that theconservative elements of the church hierarchy seem to have the upperhand in getting access to the president's ear," Romualdez said.
About one-third of the 1.4 million unplanned pregnancies in the Philippines end in abortion, United Nations Population Fundofficial Rena Dona said recently at a forum on family planning. Sheadded that two out of five women who want to use contraceptives do nothave access to them (AP/International Herald Tribune,8/14). About 89 million people live in the Philippines, but thegovernment has estimated that the number will increase to 142 millionby 2040 if the population growth rate is 1% (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 7/12).
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