Tagum: A poster city for RH bill
TAGUM CITY—As national debate rages over the reproductive health (RH) bill, Tagum City has been sponsoring birth control methods for the past six years.
Every year, the city government provides some P2 million for the program that has already rendered over 3,000 men and women incapable of producing children, according to Mayor Rey Uy.
Uy, who is known for his development programs that turned Tagum from slumber to one of Mindanao’s most vibrant cities, said the decision to spend for vasectomy and tubal ligation in 2005 proved to be a wise one.
He claimed that families were beginning to reap the benefits of fewer children and that their economic conditions have been improving.
Excluded from DSWD list
As proof, Uy said that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) recently excluded the city from the list of areas where indigent families are beneficiaries of the government’s conditional cash transfer program.
The DSWD made the decision after data showed that Tagum has only a poverty incidence of 19 percent, way below the national average of 40 percent, he said.
Tagum hosts one of the largest banana plantations that employ hundreds of people in southern Mindanao. Mining activities in Davao del Norte and nearby Compostela Valley have also boosted the city’s economy during the past years.
To convince more couples to avail themselves of the free vasectomy and ligation, the city government gives P500 to every husband or wife who opts for the operation.
Aid, not incentive
But Uy quickly added that it was not meant to “buy them into undergoing the operations.”
“The small cash given to each client after the operation is not an incentive but a form of assistance. The city just tries to help compensate for the two to five days’ worth of income lost as the client has to rest from working,” he said.
According to Dr. Arnel Florendo of the city health office, the target clients are usually impoverished couples who wish to permanently stop bearing children, although well-to-do couples are also welcome.
The operations are done once a month, Florendo said.
Uy acknowledged that the program did not go seamlessly. Misconceptions and misinformation had, at first, turned many prospective clients away, he said.
“Many husbands refused to undergo the operation fearing that their masculinity would be lost or their sexual drives would diminish,” he said.
Uy said what he did was to make sure he was around during each scheduled operation. “Every time there is a scheduled vasectomy operation, I always see to it that I’m present to help dispel such misconception,” he said.
Florendo said couples availing themselves of the free operations had saved the much-needed money. Ligation and vasectomies done in hospitals normally cost between P3,000 and P5,000.
Uy said the positive effect of the birth control campaign in the city could become a show window for those opposing the RH bill.
He said he was ready to enumerate the many benefits of the program in a letter he was planning to write to Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, principal author of House Bill No. 4244.
“Mayors like me who are the front-liners in local government know the problems faced by couples who have many children … Access to nutritious food is a struggle for poor families,” he said.
Uy urged those opposing the bill to rethink their position because “it would never help in solving poverty in the country.”
“All we ask for is understanding,” he said.
Uy said that in the case of Tagum’s birth control program, he was thankful to the local religious leaders because they were not antagonistic toward it.
Although parishioners had staged candlelight protests against the RH bill last month, the office of Bishop Wilfredo Manlapaz, prelate of the Diocese of Tagum, never issued a statement against the city’s population control program, he said.
The diocese covers all of Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley.
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