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Senate shelves reproductive health bill

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile INQUIRER file photo

The reproductive health bill will have to wait.

The Senate on Wednesday placed on hold all pending bills, including the controversial RH measure, to give way to plenary deliberations on the proposed P1.8-trillion national budget for 2012.

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Senator Franklin Drilon, the finance committee chairman, earlier said that by tradition the chamber gave priority to the budget measure to ensure that the government would not operate under a reenacted budget the following year.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said the RH debates would continue when sessions resume in January 2012.

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“There’s no more time. We will tackle that when we come back because there are many questions that would have to be clarified. We’ll have all the time to discuss the RH bill (in January),” he said.

Enrile, an RH bill opponent who was actively involved during the period of interpellation, stressed that he was not out to delay final action on the RH measure, Senate Bill No. 2865.

The senator has maintained that SB 2865 was a population-control measure in the guise of a bill promoting reproductive health.

Proponents of the bill led by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Pia Cayetano, have denied this, insisting that the measure was intended mainly to provide the public with information on reproductive health.

Enrile said that at the risk of being chastised, he wanted to be very careful about the RH bill as it will have a very long-term effect.

He said he was willing to debate with the co-sponsors of the bill “for as long as we have to finish all the issues and really go to the very bottom of this.”

“The sponsors have denied that this is for population control, but they’re talking of fertility rate. They’re talking of what is an acceptable fertility rate and what is not an acceptable fertility rate,” he pointed out.

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“They’re talking of eradication of poverty through birth control. Why are you reducing the size of your families if your purpose is only to help the health of the womanhood of this country?” he said.

Enrile suggested an alternative approach to help alleviate poverty in the country, “by educating the children of the poor so they’ll have the chance to go up in life and then create jobs in this country, open our country to massive foreign investment in order that we can increase the tempo of economic activities and thereby create more jobs, which will respond to the economic and financial needs of the people who are looking for work to better their lives.”

Citing the experience of other countries that adopted population-control measures, he warned that the RH bill, if passed into law, would “contract the population.”

“You (will) reach a point in time where you will have less workers, less production, less consumption, less taxpayers to support the government. Your pension funds will dwindle. You will have to import foreigners to work in your country in order to make your economy (grow),” Enrile said.

“We will have no economy to speak of,” he said.

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TAGS: Legislation, RH bill, Senate, Social Issues
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