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NGO renews call for passage of RH bill

MANILA, Philippines - A non-government organization yesterday renewed its call for Congress to pass the Reproductive Health (RH) bill as the country’s population grew by 15.83 million in the last 10 years.

Ramon San Pascual, executive director of the Philippine Legislators Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD), said the country’s population growth rate of 1.9 percent – one of the highest in Asia – is the result of the absence of a comprehensive RH policy aggravated by the lack of access to family planning education and services by poor families.

“It is expected to see population growth rate going down, but we should not look at the figures per se. We should understand that population is still growing fast,” San Pascual said in a statement.

“And the fact is, more babies are born from poor families, from those who do not have access to comprehensive RH education and services,” he stressed.

San Pascual said the government could manage the population growth rate if the lawmakers and policymakers “will bravely address the issue of unplanned and mistimed pregnancies by providing RH education and services. “

The National Statistics Office (NSO) earlier reported that the Philippine population reached 92,337,852 as of May 1, 2010, higher by 15.83 million from 76.51 million in 2000 based on its 2010 Census of Population and Housing.

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In 1990, the total population was 60.70 million, NSO said.

“The Philippine population increased at the rate of 1.90 percent annually, on the average, during the period 2000-2010. This means that there were two persons added per year for every 100 persons in the population,” the agency said.

San Pascual said the latest results of the NSO census should serve as a reminder to lawmakers of their obligation to enact a law that will institutionalize the provision of comprehensive reproductive health education and services.

“The figures revealed by the latest NSO census underscore the need for a firmer and more comprehensive provision of RH education and services,” said San Pascual.

“These figures say that all the more the government needs population and development planning, which can be provided through an RH law,” he said.

Citing the 2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, San Pascual noted that 33 percent of the total pregnancies among Filipino women are either mistimed or unplanned.

“It is disheartening that as we grow rapidly, the number of babies born comes from the poor, who in the first place are not ready to carry the burden of having yet another child or children for that matter,” he said.

House Bill 4244, otherwise known as the “The Responsible Parenthood, Reproductive Health and Population and Development Act,” and its Senate counterpart SB 2378 are awaiting approval on second reading in both houses of Congress.

The bill received support from members of academe, interfaith- based organizations, labor and employers groups, women, youth, peoples and civil society organizations.

However, the Catholic Church is waging a strong campaign to block the passage of the measure, saying that the bill is “anti-life.”

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