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CLINTON: Unwittingly thrust into the thick of the population debate . LYN RILLON


Clinton: More babies a boon to Filipinos

By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 03:48:00 11/13/2010

Filed Under: Population, Diplomacy, Americas - United States, Celebrities, Health, Congress, Belief (Faith)

MANILA, Philippines?Former US President Bill Clinton sees more babies as an advantage for the Philippines, whose exploding population is projected to reach 94 million by the end of the year.

That cheerful note was sounded Friday by Parañaque Representative Roilo Golez, quoting Clinton who spoke on ?the challenge of globalization? on Wednesday at the Manila Hotel.

As highly industrialized nations grapple with the economic and social costs of an aging population, Clinton noted that ?you [Filipinos] have a huge population, which is [something] positive, and you have massive natural resources.?

Golez capitalized on that statement to hit back at his colleagues advocating the passage of the long-pending reproductive health (RH) bill that upholds maternal health and seeks to provide couples an informed choice on various methods of family planning.

?Obviously, Clinton can see and understand what procontraceptives people refuse to see?that our people, our children and our babies, present and future, are assets and not liabilities,? Golez said in a text message.

The Population Commission says that some two million Filipino babies are born annually, representing a population growth rate of 2.04 percent.

?Much brighter? prospects

At a press conference on Wednesday, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said he was confident that the RH bill would be passed by Congress this time around.

Lagman said the prospects were ?much brighter? for the bill?s passage, with an explicit commitment from the leadership of the House of Representatives to back the measure, including subjecting it to a plenary vote, and President Aquino?s supportive stance vis-à-vis family planning.

But Golez disagreed

?From a check of the records, the RH Bill (House Bill No. 96) has only 46 authors. It?s a far cry from the more than 100 that the RH author was boasting of in the last Congress,? Golez said, adding:

?Perhaps that?s the reason they are already talking of submitting the issue to a plebiscite. They lack the numbers in the House.

?Frankly, I don?t know how a nonconstitutional amendment can be the subject of a plebiscite, but if they can find a formula, I welcome a general public debate on the issue in every corner of the land.?

Apart from HB 96, five other bills have been filed, all seeking a strong family planning program backed by the government to ensure a better quality of life for Filipinos.

The bills seek to provide couples access to all family planning information and services, including contraceptives.

But Golez said he was puzzled by the decision of the sponsors of the RH bill to refer the measure to the House committee on population and family relations.

?The other question is: Why is the RH bill, primarily a health bill, in the committee on population and not in the committee on health, when the author has been repeatedly saying that it is not a population control measure but [one intended] to save lives?? Golez said.

?Are they afraid of the many doctors and medical practitioners ready to come out to talk about the health hazards of contraceptives, which even a World Health Organization study claims may be carcinogenic?? he said.

Citing the rules of the House, Lagman has insisted that the committee on population was the ?proper committee? to handle population measures.

The committee has calendared the RH bill for hearing on November 24 and December 8.

Hardline Church

The Catholic Church?s hardline stance against artificial means of family planning such as contraceptives, condoms and pills has served to block the passage of the RH bill in past Congresses.

The Church, which allows only natural family planning methods such as rhythm and abstinence, firmly opposes the bill, which it has branded as ?antilife.?

The Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines recently tangled with Malacañang on the RH issue, but later agreed to a cease-fire to pave the way for a series of dialogues that began last month.

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