MANILA, Philippines?The House of Representatives will start the much anticipated debate over the proposed Reproductive Health (RH) measure next week.
All of the six related bills on reproductive health and family planning have been scheduled for public hearings by the House Committee on Population and Family Relations Nov. 24 and Dec. 1.
The leader of RH bill advocates in the lower chamber, House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman, thanked Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for his commitment to prioritize the bills and call for a plenary vote on a consolidated measure ?without delay,? meaning this could take place before the Christmas break.
Lagman also thanked President Benigno Aquino for his sympathetic stance on the family planning measure.
?President Benigno Aquino III needs to be complimented and supported for standing firm against the Catholic hierarchy in his advocacy for responsible parenthood and contraceptive use based on freedom of informed choice,? said Lagman.
The minority chief noted that ?the steadfast position of the President on voluntary family planning is an unequivocal endorsement for the enactment of a comprehensive and nationwide statute on reproductive health and population development.?
?I salute the President for his unwavering commitment for the adoption of a national policy on reproductive health and family planning,? said Lagman, the principal author of House Bill No. 96, the first of the six RH bills filed in the 15th Congress.
The Philippines is the only remaining middle income country in Southeast Asia without a complete and comprehensive national policy on reproductive health, noted Lagman.
The country?s exploding population is projected to reach 94 million by the end of the year, with some two million babies born annually. This represents a population growth rate of 2.04 percent.
Lagman contended that the enactment of a national law on reproductive health, ?which is rights-based, health-oriented and human development-driven, would enable the Philippines to improve its chances of meeting the Millennium Development Goals.
The RH bill seeks to promote both natural and artificial birth control methods through government programs, and advocates the education of students on reproductive health at the appropriate age, among other aims.
None of the six RH bills advocates abortion, but it is being strongly opposed by the Catholic Church, which favors natural means such as abstinence and the rhythm method over the use of artificial means of family planning such as birth control pills and condoms.