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‘Government family-planning program to cut poverty, hasten economic growth’

Government efforts to accelerate the country’s entry into the so-called demographic dividend may soon get a boost once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grants certificates of product registrations (CPR) to 51 contraceptives.

Population Commission (Popcom) Executive Director Juan A. Perez III said in a statement that the FDA is set to issue a resolution that will declare 51 contraceptives as non-abortifacient next week.

Doing so, Perez said, will effectively lift a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the full implementation of the responsible parenthood and reproductive health (RPRH) law. Access to the 51 contraceptives are restricted because of the TRO imposed by the Supreme Court on these products in June 2015.

“This development is good for the economy. With women, especially poor ones, able to access modern and effective family-planning service, poverty reduction will be faster and women, unburdened of unwanted pregnancies, will be able to get training and/or immediately join the work force,” Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told the BusinessMirror.

Pernia noted that in East and Southeast Asian countries, where women were able to have uninterrupted access to modern contraception since the early-1970s, poverty reduction had been faster.

The availability of modern contraceptives expands the government’s tools to achieve the demographic dividend, according to National Economid and Development Authority Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie G. Edillon.

Edillon noted that the Duterte administration aims to increase the country’s contraceptive prevalence rate to 65 percent from 37.5 percent. She also said the government aims to reduce the proportion of adolescents who have begun childbearing to 6 percent from 13.6 percent.

“A business-as-usual scenario means that the country needs to wait until at least 2050 to benefit from the demographic dividend, or possibly even miss it altogether,”  the country’s Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2016 to 2022 read.

“Full implementation of the RPRH law, coupled with adequate investment in the youth’s human capital, on the other hand, will enable the country to reap the dividend starting possibly in the 2030s through the 2040s,” it added.

The so-called demographic dividend refers to the accelerated economic growth that may result from a rapid decline in a country’s fertility and the subsequent change in the population age structure.

However, University of Asia and the Pacific School of Economics Dean Cid Terosa said allowing these 51 contraceptives will also “jeopardize” the country’s chances of meeting its demographic dividend.  Based on the PDP, the Philippines is in the first phase of the demographic transition given that a high proportion of the population is under-15 years old.

The shift to the second phase, characterized by a bigger proportion of the working-age population vis-à-vis dependents, will depend on how the country manages population growth.

“It’s going to be bad for the economy because it will lower further our falling population-growth rate. The magnitude of the demographic dividend could be jeopardized by a falling population-growth
rate,” Terosa said.

On Thursday Perez said the Department of Health (DOH) has crafted the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the RPRH. The crafting of the IRR was led by former Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial, which was signed on October 6 at the DOH central office in Manila.

“The twin actions of the FDA and DOH have put the RPRH law back on track to full implementation,” Perez said.

Apart from achieving the demographic dividend, increasing
the country’s contraceptive-prevalence rate will also meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly SDG 5 on Gender Equality and Empower All Women and Girls.

One of the targets of SDG 5 is to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health (RH) and reproductive rights as agreed in accordance with the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development and the Beijing Platform for Action and the outcome documents of their review conferences.

In March the Popcom said the expiration of permits issued for modern contraceptives could lead to at least a thousand mothers dying every year by 2022.

Perez said that, with the lapse in the CPR of Implanon, a popular implant that is being distributed for free by the government, there would have already been 500,000 unintended births and 1,100 maternal deaths between June 2016 and March 2017.

Due to the absence of more modern contraceptives, the Popcom expects that there would be an average of 800 to 1,000 maternal deaths every year.

A comprehensive RH program makes available to women, couples, their adolescent children and their families—especially those who have less in life—a full range of contraceptive methods, free of charge if not low cost, and where family planning information and services are responsive to the needs of the clients across the nation.

The RPRH Act of 2012 guarantees universal access to contraceptive methods, sexuality education and maternal and child care.

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