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With the Philippine population expected to almost double to an alarming 160 million by 2038, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman has re-filed the proposed “Reproductive Health, Responsible Parenthood and Population Development Act” as House Bill No. 17. Lagman is confident that the 14th Congress will finally pass the measure into law because it is a “consistent, coherent and rights-based policy that will improve maternal and infant health even as it will help shatter the negative tandem of excessive population growth and poverty.”

HB 17 seeks to provide the enabling environment for couples and individuals to enjoy the basic right to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children through relevant information and education and access to safe, effective, affordable and acceptable methods of family planning of their choice.

Lagman clarified that “this bill is not a population control measure with the sole objective of limiting population growth; a numerical goal is not the raison d’ être of House Bill 17.”

The bill provides for population development that aims to:

  1. help couples/parents achieve their desired fertility size in the context of responsible parenthood;
  2. improve reproductive health of individuals and contribute to decreased maternal mortality rate, infant mortality and early child mortality;
  3. reduce incidence of teenage pregnancy and other reproductive health problems; and
  4. contribute to policies that will assist government to achieve a favorable balance between population and distribution, economic activities and the environment.

The Bicol solon underscored that “this measure is not coercive. It gives couples the freedom to decide whether or not to plan their families or space or limit their children.”

Those who decide to plan their families will have the freedom to choose what method of contraception is best suited for them. Lagman denounced critics who continue to label the bill as a “two child policy”. He emphasized that the measure is “voluntary, not compulsory; suggestive, not coercive; and absolutely not punitive. It is not even a policy. It is a suggested ideal or norm.”

Moreover, Lagman said that the measure is not pro-abortion. “HB 17 does not only protect the life of the unborn from the moment of implantation but that of the mother as well.” It seeks to promote maternal and reproductive health through sustained information campaign on reproductive health rights coupled with access to all methods of family planning from the natural to the modern which are medically-safe and legal.

To contribute to the empowerment and responsible behavior of the youth, HB 17 provides for age-appropriate reproductive health and sexuality education that may be initiated by parents at home and shall be sustained and complemented by formal education in school.

The bill mandates the Commission on Population (POPCOM) to be the central, coordinating, monitoring and implementing body for the national policy on reproductive health, responsible parenthood and population development. To competently discharge this function, POPCOM, which is currently under the Department of Health (DOH), shall revert to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).