KIGALI -- The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) shared the Philippines’ experience in implementing its family planning program when it represented the country last month at the 2018 International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) held in Kigali, Rwanda.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said multi-sectoral support is needed, considering the case of the Philippines, in pursuing universal access to sexual and reproductive health services.
“I understand that different countries would have their own challenges when it comes to family planning. But let me share that support from partners, especially civil society organizations (CSOs), was pivotal in passing a law on reproductive health in a country as conservative as the Philippines,” Pernia said during a High-level Ministerial Meeting.
The meeting was attended by Economic, Finance, Central Bank, and Health Ministers from Rwanda, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Liberia, Canada, Burkina Faso, Mali, Madagascar and Malawi.
Pernia explained when the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) -- due to a petition from conservative groups -- on government procurement and distribution of hormonal contraceptive Implanon and Implanon NXT.
CSOs were instrumental in providing services to women who chose to use it, as well as lobbying the government to resolve the TRO.
“The Philippines, after witnessing a long and arduous battle for a law on reproductive health, fortunately saw a more resolute implementation of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012, or RPRH Law, just late last year,” he said.
Pernia added the RPRH Law, of which family planning is a key component, is one of the strategies under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, which the whole government is expected to execute.
To strengthen the government’s push for reproductive health programs, Pernia cited President Duterte’s issuance of Executive Order No. 12 in 2017 that mandates to intensify and accelerate the implementation of actions needed to attain zero unmet need for modern family planning, especially among poor households.
Through this order, several government agencies, led by the Department of Health and the Commission on Population, were tasked to work closely with local government units to implement family planning programs.
For one, a National Implementation Team, composed of smaller regional teams, was formed to ensure that reproductive health and family planning programs are effectively disseminated and adopted.
The Department of Education also issued policy guidelines on executing comprehensive sexuality education in schools.
“Family planning plays a crucial role in reducing poverty as it enables families or couples to plan for their future, save more, and invest in their children’s human capital, thereby benefitting the economy and society,” Pernia said.
The Philippines has a population of more than 105 million, which could reach 110 million by 2020.
Poverty incidence remains high at 21.6 percent as of 2015, and there had also been slow increase in the use of modern contraceptives -- from 37.6 percent in 2013 to only 40.4 percent in 2017.
The country’s total fertility rate as of 2017 is still high at 2.7 children average per woman but had already declined from 5.7 in 1975 to 4.3 in 1990, and 3 in 2013.
“Investing in family planning is tantamount to building the social infrastructure that facilitates quality nutrition, health, and education towards human capital formation -- the demographic dividend that translates to economic returns. Such returns should lead to the promotion of our science and technology innovation (STI) ecosystem,” he added.
Besides the High-Level Ministerial Meeting on the Demographic Dividend, Pernia also represented the country at three other events. These were the Plenary on Investing in Family Planning for a Lifetime of Returns as panelist, the Official Press Conference on the Return on Investment for Family Planning also as panelist, and the South-South Collaboration for Family Planning Session as keynote speaker.
The 2018 ICFP, a biennial event, was attended by youth representatives, government ministers and officials, policy-makers, and health providers from around the world.
The event was organized by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of the government of Rwanda. (NEDA-PR)