MANILA, Philippines—With the reproductive health bill set to be signed into law by President Benigno Aquino, its principal author on Friday said the measure would benefit at least 7.5 million students in public schools who would be exposed to sex education.
Citing data from the Department of Education, Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, who campaigned for the RH bill for many years, was referring to adolescents from Grade 6 to high schools.
“The mandatory age and development appropriate reproductive health education among the young as prescribed in the reconciled RH bill will initially benefit no less than 7.5 million adolescents,” he said in a statement.
“The number of beneficiaries would even increase if RH education would start at an earlier grade than Grade 6 because the period of adolescence starts at an age lower than those of 6th graders,” he claimed.
Lagman cited the RH bill provision defining adolescents as “young people between the ages of 10 and 19 years who are in transition form childhood to adulthood.”
“Since the young should not be deprived of RH education just because they are enrolled in private schools, it is expected that many private elementary and secondary schools would opt to teach reproductive health education to equally educate their pupils and students,” he said.
The provision mandating sex education was a major issue during congressional debates on the RH bill.
During the period of individual amendments, Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez asked that “mandatory age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education” be taught starting “senior high school,” not Grade 6.
Rodriguez was concerned that starting with Grade 6 pupils might lead to “misunderstanding” on lessons pertaining to “sex, sexuality and reproductive health.”
“It’s irreparable if these children will misapprehend (the lessons),” he said.
But Lagman was adamant, saying starting sex education lessons among adolescents aged 16 or 17 would be “too late.”
As a compromise, he accepted a proposal to amend the provision, which now states: “Age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education shall be taught by adequately trained and qualified teachers.”
He also agreed to a proposal by Rodriguez to include the sentence: “Upon due notification by the Department of Education and private educational institutions through the principals in writing two weeks before classes start, parents shall be informed of the option of not allowing their minor children to attend classes pertaining to reproductive health.”