EU to help poor Filipinos gain free access to contraceptives

Published by rudy Date posted on April 16, 2011

European Union officials announced on Friday they would provide an initial fund of 35 million Euros to help poor Filipinos gain free access to contraceptives and strongly backed the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

The Philippine government needs to address its population growth more effectively like other Asian countries to be able to better deal with the problem of poverty, which has forced many job- seeking Filipinos to leave the country, the officials said.

“We’ve always taken our rights-based approach saying that, unequivocally, with no hesitation at all, we support access to modern family planning,” Nicholas Taylor, head of operations section of the EU Delegation to the Philippines, said in a news conference. “Hear my words, access.”

In a strong advocacy that could earn the ire of the local Catholic church, the EU officials urged the free provision of contraceptives specially to the rural poor, saying making them pay for pills and other family planning methods is “silly.”

“If you find in some rural health units there are modern contraceptives available, say birth control pills but the municipal health officer would say you have to pay 5 pesos (about 0.12 U.S. dollar) a time, that is a denial of access to very poor people,” Taylor said. “The issues become ways of helping by working to ensure that service delivery happens through the provision of the actual commodities and making sure that silly things like unnecessary usage charges are not imposed on the poor, ” he added.

Joern Dosch, leader of the EU’s cooperation program evaluation team to the Philippines, said “other countries in the region are much more advanced in this regard in terms of addressing population growth.”

“In terms of population growth, that is certainly an issue in the Philippines and it needs to be addressed at some point,” Dosch said. “There might be a sustainable solution to the problem and this of course is directly related to poverty. That’s the challenge.”

Taylor said the government can promote family planning and access to contraceptives better “if the reproductive health bill is passed because that gives a legal framework for driving it much more effectively.”

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has expressed support for the RH bill, but earned criticisms from the Philippine church and pro-life groups prompting him to come up with a sanitized version of the legislation, called the Responsible Parenthood (RP) bill. –Xinhua

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