MALACAñANG on Saturday scored critics of President Rodrigo Duterte’s executive order ensuring access to modern family planning methods, telling them to keep a “broader and a more open mind” on government efforts to push for responsible parenthood.
“Our call is for them to have a broader and a more open mind, not only coming from ideology. Certain sectors in society should evolve their thinking and be more open to the needs of the people,” presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella, a former pastor and evangelist, told state radio dzRB.
He likewise told pro-life groups and critics to be “more responsible even with their faith.”
“We need to feed our families, right?” he asked.
On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Duterte signed an order providing access to family planning methods despite a Supreme Court order prohibiting the government’s procurement and distribution of some family planning aids.
Executive Order No. 12 aims to “intensify and accelerate the implementation of critical actions necessary to attain and sustain zero unmet need for modern family planning for all poor households by 2018, and all of Filipinos” within the context of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012.
In his first State-of-the-Nation Address, Duterte called for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health Law that mandates all accredited public health facilities to provide a full range of modern family planning methods.
Abella, meanwhile, welcomed the United Nations Population Fund’s recognition of the signing of EO No. 12 as a major push for the country’s family planning programs.
Abella, said that though President Duterte made an unpopular decision among some groups, he has the future of the Filipinos in mind.
“We have to appreciate the President because even if the measure won’t be popular with certain sectors of the society, nevertheless he pushed for the reproductive health (EO) because it is not just to serve the interest of a small group but to serve the interest of the whole nation,” Abella said.
“We continue to encourage and we thank the Filipino people for supporting that and also the United Nations for recognizing the efforts of the President,” he added.
Also on Saturday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch lauded the Duterte administration’s move to support reproductive health programs, even as it described its human rights record as “horrendous.”
The group praised Duterte’s issuance of an executive order earlier this week a “bright spot in the administration’s otherwise horrendous human rights record via its abusive ‘war on drugs,’” said Human Rights Watch in a statement.
Condoms, the HRW emphasized, is one of the best prevention methods for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is usually transmitted through sexual intercourse.
The Philippines was ranked third, after Afghanistan and Pakistan, in a 2016 Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) report on prevention gaps, in terms of percentage growth in the new HIV infections in the Asia-Pacific region from 2010 to 2015.
With his EO, Duterte pushed for government to have “zero unmet need” for family planning, the group said.
In December 2016, the Commission on Population said that the population is expected to reach 105.75 million by the end of 2017. At least 1.69 million births are expected in 2017, the commission said, due to Filipino women’s high fertility rates.
By the end of 2017, POPCOM estimates that there will be 31.5 million Filipino school children, 66.7 million Filipinos in the labor force, and 5.2 million Filipinos aged over 65.
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